Matt writes: Carl Reiner, the towering comedic genius responsible for creating "The Dick Van Dyke Show," died last week at the age of 98. He remained uproarious and brilliant to the very end, and there's no question that his work will keep us entertained for the next 2000 years. Two days before his passing, he tweeted, “Nothing pleases me more than knowing that I have lived the best life possible by having met & marrying the gifted Estelle (Stella) Lebost—who partnered with me in bringing Rob, Annie & Lucas Reiner into this needy & evolving world.” Be sure to read Nell Minow's tribute to Reiner as well as Donald Liebenson's recent interview with the television icon.
Matt writes: On April 28th, the movie world lost a true giant: filmmaker John Singleton, whose 1991 masterpiece, "Boyz N the Hood," remains one of the most astonishing feature debuts in cinema history. Roger Ebert awarded the picture four stars, writing that it was one of "the best American films of recent years." Roger's thoughts regarding the entirety of Singleton's career were detailed in a special compilation by Nick Allen, while Odie Henderson penned a deeply moving obituary for the trailblazing auteur. I was among the writers at RogerEbert.com who paid tribute to Singleton in a separate article, "Breaking Barriers."
Matt writes: On August 2nd, Chaz Ebert announced that RogerEbert.com is gender balancing its regular rotation of film critics. Nell Minow, Monica Castillo and Tomris Laffly join Sheila O’Malley and Christy Lemire to round out the website’s roster of female critics to achieve a fifty-fifty split of five women and five men. The site also will publish more frequent contributions by diverse critics, including Castillo and Odie Henderson, who bring valued perspectives from their Cuban- and African-American roots. Minow has also been appointed the website's first female assistant editor.
An interview with comedian Gilbert Gottfried, the subject of Neil Berkeley's "Gilbert," playing at Hot Docs 2017.
An excerpt from the May 2016 issue of Bright Wall/Dark Room about "The Man with Two Brains" and "All of Me."
Rarely does a TV show arrive with lower expectations than the annual Emmy Awards telecast. It's a given that the thing will suck. Even so, this year's -- the 64th -- managed to come up short and disappoint. And it wasn't one of those "so bad it's good" campy things you can enjoy making fun of, either. It was more like one of those "so bad it's lousy" things that leave you incredulous and drained of the will to live.
A joke should have the perfection of a haiku. Not one extra word. No wrong words. It should seem to have been discovered in its absolute form rather than created. The weight of the meaning should be at the end. The earlier words should prepare for the shift of the meaning. The ending must have absolute finality. It should present a world view only revealed at the last moment. Like knife-throwing, joke-telling should never be practiced except by experts.
For many laymen, a joke is a heavenly gift allowing them to monopolize your attention although they lack all ability as an entertainer. You can tell this because they start off grinning and grin the whole way through. They're so pleased with themselves. Their grins are telling you they're funny and their joke is funny. The expert knows not to betray the slightest emotion. The expert is reciting a fact. There is nothing to be done about it. The fact insists on a world that is different than you thought. The fact is surprising and ironic. It is also surprising--you mustn't see it coming. That's why the teller should not grin. His face shouldn't tell you it's coming. If the joke is also vulgar, so much the better, but it must never exist for the sake of vulgarity. That's why "The Aristocrats" is not only the most offensive joke in the world, but also, in the wrong hands, the most boring.
View image Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars...
"One of the most genuinely confounding films to come along in years... This is not a film occurring in an alternate or imaginary reality; rather, it is a film of no reality, that is, a picture that changes the rules of its universe strictly according to its creators' whims. Hence, the film is likely to inspire even more heavy thinking on the part of cultural theorists than 'The Matrix' did."
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"A lot of fluorescent, 7-Eleven-tinted images flash by, any of which could easily be removed or re-arranged without significantly disrupting the film's continuity, because it has none. If you can determine the spatial relationship between Speed's Mach 5 (or Mach 6) and any other race car for more than a few consecutive seconds, then good for you. As on the TV series, the pictures don't seem to move so much as repeat -- movement with no momentum."
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"'Speed Racer' is not a feature film in any conventional sense... Whatever information that passes from your retinas to your brain during 'Speed Racer' is conveyed through optical design and not so much through more traditional devices such as dialogue, narrative, performance or characterization."
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"Alas, this radicalization of film language, while certainly impressive to behold, yields heretofore un-dreamed of levels of narrative incoherence, but hey, not every experiment succeeds."
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"One of the more blatantly anti-capitalist storylines to come down the cinematic pike since, I dunno, Bertolucci's '1900.'"
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""Speed Racer" is a manufactured widget, a packaged commodity that capitalizes on an anthropomorphized cartoon of Capitalist Evil in order to sell itself and its ancillary products."
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Three of the above quotations are taken from a three-star review of "Speed Racer." The other three are from a one-and-a-half-star review. Can you tell which is which? Perhaps the tone gives something away, but the descriptions of the movie, what it does and how it works, are strikingly similar. Clearly both of these critics saw the same movie, although one found the experience less daring, less exhilarating, than the other.
NEW YORK -- So there I was, sitting in Woody Allen’s living room, up in the penthouse overlooking Central Park, waiting for Woody and meditating on the dimensions of his talent. There must not be, I decided, many people who can simultaneously star in their own comic strip and make a movie the critics call Bergmanesque… and then of course there’s Woody the jazz clarinetist, and Woody’s Academy Award for “Annie Hall,” and the first prize in the O. Henry Awards that one of his New Yorker short stories won this year. How can a guy this successful still be seeing an analyst? How could I get the name of his shrink?
"You name it, I played it," said Jerry Paris. "I was the co-pilot, the best friend, the roommate, the Army buddy. In three movies, I was second banana to Bonzo the monkey. Remember Bonzo? He was the number one monkey in Hollywood, bigger even than Cheetah the Chimp, until he was killed in a tragic fire. Let's see. I was in 'Bonzo Goes to College,' and in 'Monkey Business,' and another one. 'Monkey Business,' also had Marilyn Monroe and Cary Grant, but as I recall Bonzo got equal billing.