A collection of reviews that our writers thought of when considering Roger Ebert's belief that film is an empathy machine.
"The truth is, Black History Month was started by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a Black historian fed up with the lack of historical representation of people of color. In 1926, he pioneered Negro History Week, putting it on the same week as Lincoln and Frederick Douglass' birthdays. That's how February became associated with Black History Month, not some attempt to play us cheap. So, my apologies to Dr. Woodson. Mea culpa to the Man as well, though as my Mom used to tell me after erroneously beating my ass for something I didn't do, "you probably deserved this for something I didn't catch.' "
Odienator is back, and he's beautiful! The self-described "bald, Black, half-blind kid" has returned to Big Media Vandalism for his second annual "It's Black History Mumf, Odienator" Film Festival, aka "Odie 2: Electric Boogaloo." (And he's filing some of it from a business trip to Dublin, Internet willing!)
"Since Obama has made Black History every month until at least January 2013," he writes, "I am now claiming February as my own." Yes he does. So far you'll find inimitably Odienesque personal essays on "Devil In a Blue Dress," "Beat Street, "Baadasssss!," "Eve's Bayou," "Cotton Comes to Harlem,"Something the Lord Made," "Lady Sings the Blues," "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka," Scary Black Movies (including "Blacula," "Abby" and "Candyman") -- and appreciations of "Sanford and Son," actor Roscoe Lee Browne, and the late Bernie Mac, Isaac Hayes and Rudy Ray Moore, aka Dolemite. (Odiebama also makes a couple guest appearances.)
View image Batman vs. Joker. How much story do you need? Is this movie going to have an unambiguously happy ending? What do you think?
"I'm a storyteller." That's the way many of the great old Hollywood directors used to like to describe what they did for a living. It was a way of being modest, but it also expressed their credo, which was that everything in the movie was meant to serve the story. We're still used to thinking that way about movies, that they're stories told with images and sounds. Sure they are. Sometimes.
I don't mean to say that storytelling is overrated (then again, maybe that's exactly what I mean), but we know it's not necessarily the most important thing in a movie -- even a mainstream studio picture. How it feels will always be more significant than the tale it spins. Because it's a movie.
Some films, of course, are what they call "story-driven." They keep you involved by teasing your curiosity about what will happen next. And it can be quite satisfying when all the narrative strands come together at the end in a nicely shaped bow (often culminating, in classical American cinema, by a wedding or a captured crook or a solved mystery or an underdog victory... or a kiss).
But how many movies really hold your interest just because of the story -- especially in this season of formula superhero melodramas and romantic comedies? Don't you already know, in your very bones by now, what the beats will be and basically where the picture is headed from the start?
Comedy Central is still just a little afraid of this...
... and this.
"South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have finally explained some of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that prevented their Tom Cruise/Scientology-ridiculing episode, "Trapped in the Closet" from repeating as scheduled, and why Comedy Central kept them from showing a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad in the most recent season ("Cartoon Wars, Part II"), even though they'd already shown Muhammad in a 2001 episode, "Super Best Friends."
CNN reports ("'South Park' guys still upset"): "So there are two things we can't do on Comedy Central: show Muhammad or Tom Cruise," Trey Parker said during the MTV Networks portion of the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour.
Parker and Matt Stone said they had no doubt that the "Trapped in the Closet" episode was yanked as a result of Cruise's starring this summer in "Mission: Impossible III," the movie from Paramount, Comedy Central's sister company. [...]
"We didn't do any press because we were just going to get in a pissing war with Tom Cruise, and we didn't want to be in the same article as that guy," he said. "But we picked the wrong guy to parody because we're going to be asked about Tom for the next two years."
They added that they have not been contacted by Scientology representatives but did sit down the week after the episode aired with a "very upset" Isaac Hayes, a Scientologist who portrayed the character of Chef. Hayes has since exited the show.
"We didn't want to be hypocrites," Parker said. "We thought it could piss Isaac off, but we had to do it for that very reason" of not being labeled hypocrites. [So, it looks like Roger Friedman was full of crap.]
Regarding the decision not to air the image of Muhammad during the "Cartoon Wars" episode, the pair said it was a corporate decision that could become a slippery slope if other groups begin making threats and affecting content. They also noted that Muhammad seems to be off limits, while it is "open season" on Jesus, who happens to be a "South Park" character. (Depictions of Muhammad are strictly prohibited in Islam.)
Comedy Central president Doug Herzog admitted, "It's tough, but I think I would say we did overreact. ... Matt and Trey enjoy a fair amount of creative freedom. History might show that we overreacted, and we will live with that."
He added that the image probably will not be shown on the DVD version either, but "I look forward to the day when we can uncover it."
Don't forget to set your TiVo, Tom.
I just love a Xenu joke. But, seriously, this just in from reader Ali Nagib: I just noticed on my TiVo that it claims that Comedy Central will air "Trapped in the Closet" on July 19, in their usual "new" episode timeslot, at 10 and 12 PM Eastern. Go, Freedom! (I think)Great news, Ali! I went to Comedy Central's web site and it confirms your TiVo. The episode is scheduled for the 19th (immediately following "Casa Bonita," another great one), with a repeat the next day. Will Viacom and Comedy Central have the intestinal fortitude to follow through this time? Or will they cave again at the last minute and whisk the Emmy-nominated episode back into the Comedy Closet, along with Tom Cruise, John Travolta and R. Kelly? We shall see, we shall see... Meanwhile, set your TiVos!
UPDATE (07/12/06):Check out this story at E!Online, "Airwaves Again Safe for 'South Park' Scientology Spoof": "If they hadn't put this episode back on the air, we'd have had serious issues, and we wouldn't be doing anything else with them," cocreator Matt Stone tells Variety....
While Comedy Central failed to publicly disclose its reasons for yanking the program (which is also credited for leading Scientologist Isaac Hayes to jump ship as the longtime voice of Chef), creators Stone and Trey Parker didn't shy away from broadcasting what they claimed was the network-sanctioned reason.
As the conspiracy theory goes, the Cruise's camp had a hand in deep-sixing the episode, with the litigious actor reportedly threatening threatened to pull out of promotional duties for "Mission: Impossible III." (Viacom is the parent company for both Comedy Central and Paramount, the studio that was releasing Cruise's film.)
Cruise's reps vehemently denied such allegations, but the "South Park" brain trust stuck by its guns.
"I only know what we were told, that people involved with 'M:I:III' wanted the episode off the air and that is why Comedy Central had to do it," Stone says in Variety. "I don't know why else it would have been pulled."
Now, Cruise's saturation-level publicity tour is over (and proved fairly ineffective, with the sequel grossing a disappointing $133 million domestically) and he is apparently in hiding with his new baby. Have the evildoers been vanquished? Here's hoping...
Oscar turns 75 this year, old enough to write a second volume of its memoirs. The Academy Awards are always called Hollywood's Prom Night, and like all prom nights they inspires a lot of memories and photographs and scrapbooks, and sometimes you go rummaging through them.
TELLURIDE, Colo.--The schedule of each year's Telluride Film Festival is as closely guarded as the Oscar winners. Until they arrive, gasping for air, in this pretty little mountain town at the 10,000-foot level, festival ticket holders have no idea what they'll be seeing. Rumors start early. At the Denver airport, waiting for the shuttle to Montrose, I was informed that Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York" will be sneaked here this year. That is almost certainly not true (never say never). Then again, if somebody had told me that Telluride was going to resurrect the three-screen, three-camera Cinerama process, I would have doubted it. And they are.
Q. Here's an idea for the Oscar show presentation of "Blame Canada" that I only hope the Zanucks will attempt to realize. It could be the best "song" number since Isaac Hayes performed "Shaft!" It should begin with a solo by Anne Murray, who is joined, as the song builds, by other Canadian warblers, one by one: Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Gordon Lightfoot, and so on, until it reaches a Canadian crescendo. (Jim Emerson, Seattle, WA)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. This is the story of one of the most important films I've seen this year and of the show-business cliffhanger it prompts: Will it find the audience it deserves? Or will it drift into the neverland of home video, because it has been denied the right launching pad?
In the autumn march of film festivals, Chicago's comes after Montreal, Telluride and Venice, and is held at about the same time as New York. All of these festivals are essentially fishing in the same pond, so the remarkable thing about the 31st annual Chicago event is how many new or unfamiliar titles have been discovered.