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Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour stands apart from more routine historical dramas.

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The Man Who Invented Christmas

Not particularly keen on nuance or subtlety, this is a film in which everything, especially Stevens’ decidedly manic take on Dickens, is pitched as broadly…

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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.

Larry Sanders: Changing television and changing lives

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August, 2012, marks the 20th anniversary of the debut of "The Larry Sanders Show," episodes of which are available on Netflix Instant, Amazon Instant, iTunes, and DVD. This is the third and final part of Edward Copeland's extensive tribute to the show, including interviews with many of those involved in creating one of the best-loved comedies in television history. Part 1 (Ten Best Episodes) is here and Part 2 (The show behind the show) is here.

A related article about Bob Odenkirk and his characters, Stevie Grant and Saul Goodman (on "Breaking Bad"), is here.

by Edward Copeland

"It was an amazing experience," said Jeffrey Tambor. "I come from the theater and it was very, very much approached like theater. It was rehearsed and Garry took a long, long time in casting and putting that particular unit together." In a phone interview, Tambor talked about how Garry Shandling and his behind-the-scenes team selected the performers to play the characters, regulars and guest stars, on "The Larry Sanders Show" when it debuted 20 years ago. Shandling chose well throughout the series' run and -- from the veteran to the novice, the theater-trained acting teacher and character actor to the comedy troupe star in his most subtle role -- they all tend to feel the way Tambor does: "It changed my career. It changed my life."

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Bill Maher: Dumb jokes for the TV talk show set

"Remember during the campaign when John McCain attacked Obama for acting like a celebrity and we all laughed at the grumpy old shellshocked fool? Well, it turns out he was right. [...] It's getting to where you can't turn on your TV without seeing Obama."

What grumpy old shellshocked fool said that? It was comedian Bill Maher, whose approach to political satire is to talk about televised presidential photo ops as if they were interfering with, or substituting for, policy-making. I mean, the guy admits he thinks what he sees on TV is "news," and then he watches PR puff pieces about presidential puppies and romantic nights out on Broadway and thinks it's Obama who lacks substance? Turn off the boob tube, Bill, and read a newspaper or a web site -- or a blog. If you wanted to learn something about politics (and "topical humor") from TV, you should be watching Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, not Leno. But I warn you, it's going to make you feel as tired and ancient as your schtick. You may as well be telling jokes about airline food and Geritol. (Anybody remember Geritol? That's my point.)

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Do the Contrarian (Part I)

The Pale Man knows how to do The Contrarian. He sits motionless until an external stimulus prompts him into motion.

There's a brand new dance That's easy to do It's called the Contrarian And it's all about you!

Strike a hipster pose And admire your reflection Just be sure you're facing In an opposite direction!

(apologies to Rufus Thomas)

Is Armond White too easy a target? Does any other movie critic have a blog devoted to "parsing the confounding film criticism" he produces? (See the hilariously titled Armond Dangerous.)

At the risk of sounding contrarian, I want to suggest that White (published on the web via the weekly New York Press) is by no means the worst movie reviewer in the United States. He just pretends to be the baddest.

The all-too-common White review is a reactionary tirade that owes a lot to the angry shtick of aging hipster comedians like Dennis Leary and Dennis Miller back in the 1990s ("hipster" being White's favorite term of disapprobation). White can also be funny, but I wish he thought so, too -- and that his humor arose from his observations about movies rather than his hysterical indignation.

In this sense, White doesn't necessarily practice film criticism, although what he writes is almost always based on his real or imagined characterization of what other critics have already written. The movie itself sometimes gets lost in White's internal monologue as he rages against some chimerical critical consensus.

In the Bizarro World, Armond White is Jeffrey Lyons. He's the negative campaigner's blurbmeister. Just substitute disses for superlatives and you'll find a similar (anti-)promotional blurb mentality at work. This is the most elementary form of so-called "criticism" -- purely heirarchical rather than analytical or exploratory. It's not even "This is why I prefer this to that"; it's just "This is better than that because I choose to say so."

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Politics, celebs and movie critics

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"You should learn to keep your opinions OUT of your reviews!" Every critic I know has received at least one letter like that from an indignant reader. Of course, it's an absurd proposition; critics are paid to express their opinions, and the good ones (who exercise what is known across all disciplines as "critical thinking") are also able to cite examples and employ sound reasoning to build an argument, showing you how and why they reached their verdict.

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Movie Answer Man (03/25/2001)

Q. The original trailer for "Series 7: The Contenders" was most disturbing. It seemed to be a serious movie about people killing each other as a game. Then I saw a different trailer. The tone had changed. Perhaps because I'd read about the movie being a dark comedy about the "survival"-type shows on TV, I knew more of what it was about. It's interesting that the new trailer came out just after the recent high school shootings. It's also interesting because one of the stars has been on TV talking about how this movie is NOT for children but only for adults. But the ads are clearly aimed at kids. (Carol Iwata, Chicago)

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Movie Answer Man (04/28/1996)

Q. I go to UCLA and live in Westwood. Obviously I live around a great number of theaters and very close to Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Brentwood, and Holmby Hills. So, when movie stars want to go to movies they go around here. I went to see "Primal Fear." While we were in line Woody Harrelson bought a ticket and went in. OK. Not so bad. He wasn't looking for attention but unfortunately he received it. Before my girlfriend and I got to the ticket counter, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman walked by (quickly) and as I watched heads turn everywhere: In line, on the corner, and all along the sidewalk up to and I suppose in the movie they went to see ("The Birdcage"). Now for my question. They are actors, they are people, they feel, talk, dress like everyone else. People point, stare, gawk, and follow their every move. Not very conducive to a normal lifestyle. They chose that profession and are not blind to reality. They know that stars are followed, stared at, touched, etc. I would suppose two actors such as Cruise and Kidman would have the ability and sources to ask for a copy of "The Birdcage" for their personal viewing. That would allow them the luxury of never being gawked at. Yet they CHOOSE to go out in public. They also know the consequences. They get upset knowing they can never sit down at a corner coffee shop and drink coffee without a horde descending upon them. Should they expect a normal life? Are the outings they make an attempt to hold up the mask of normalcy or are they masochists who seek out problems with their every excursion into the land of the normal? (Frank Chartrand, Westwood, Calif.)

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