Sheila writes: Welcome to the "Life Itself" Special Edition of the Ebert Club newsletter! The film, directed by Steve James, opens on July 4 in select cities (and on demand), with more dates and cities to follow. You will find more information about that below, as well as an exclusive for the newsletter: an interview with Ebert Club member Greg Salvatore, who won tickets to the L.A. premiere of "Life Itself" at the Google+ Hangout held on Roger's birthday. He was generous enough to share his thoughts with us and let us experience the L.A. premiere vicariously. There's lots more below. Here is the official trailer for "Life Itself."
Jan de Bont's "Speed 2: Cruise Control" is one of the most maligned movies of all time, earning the wrath of critics and audiences alike. It has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of two percent and an average IMDB grade of 3.5--levels usually reserved for such monstrosities as The Village People's "Can't Stop the Music" (8/ 3.7) and the insult to all things good and decent that is Adam Sandler's "That's my Boy" (21/ 5.5). Judging from its box office performance, more people hated "Speed 2" than actually saw it. Yet I have to admit that after watching it on its opening weekend in 1997, I left the theater more than happy and was not surprised by the thumbs-ups it received from Siskel & Ebert. Then all hell broke loose. When I dis a movie a friend likes, all he has to do is bring up "Speed 2."
No favorable review I've ever written has inspired more disbelief than my three stars for "Speed 2." Even its star, Sandra Bullock, started mentioning in interviews her disgust with herself for agreeing to star in it. It's frequently cited as an example of what a lousy critic I am. (Note well: Siskel also gave it thumbs up.) All the same, I'm grateful to movies that show me what I haven't seen before, and "Speed 2" had a cruise ship plowing right up the main street of a Caribbean village.
Marie writes: Okay, this is just plain cool. This is clearly someone using their brain, in combination with "what the hell, let's just go ahead and try it..."
Dr Julius Neubronner's Miniature Pigeon CameraIn 1903, Dr Julius Neubronner patented a miniature pigeon camera activated by a timing mechanism. The invention brought him international notability after he presented it at international expositions in Dresden, Frankfurt and Paris in 1909-1911. Spectators in Dresden could watch the arrival of the camera-equipped carrier pigeons, whereupon the photos were immediately developed and turned into postcards which could be purchased. (click images to enlarge.) - from The Public Domain Review. Visit the site to see even more photos.
Marie writes: every once in a while, you'll stumble upon something truly extraordinary. And when you don't, if you're lucky, you have pals like Siri Arnet who do - and share what they find; smile."Using knives, tweezers and surgical tools, Brian Dettmer carves one page at a time. Nothing inside the out-of-date encyclopedias, medical journals, illustration books, or dictionaries is relocated or implanted, only removed. Dettmer manipulates the pages and spines to form the shape of his sculptures. He also folds, bends, rolls, and stacks multiple books to create completely original sculptural forms.""My work is a collaboration with the existing material and its past creators and the completed pieces expose new relationships of the book's internal elements exactly where they have been since their original conception," he says. - mymodernmet
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Attention Ebert Club Members and fellow would-be chefs....drum roll... Marie writes: At long last, the highly anticipated "The Pot and How to Use it" is set for release! Containing numerous and surprisingly varied recipes for electric rice cookers, it is much more than a cookbook. Originating from Roger's 2008 Nov. blog entry, it includes readers' comments and recipes along side the Grand Poobah's own discerning insights and observations on why and how we cook. 128 pages, paperback format. Sept 21, 2010 release date. Available now for pre-order at Amazon at a discount.
(Click image to enlarge)Chaz visits Roger in the kitchen as he demonstrates the correct way to use the Pot. First, and this is very important; you need to remove the lid... :-)
O'Rourke's was our stage, and we displayed our personas there nightly. It was a shabby street-corner tavern on a dicey stretch of North Avenue, a block after Chicago's Old Town stopped being a tourist haven. In its early days it was heated by a wood-burning pot-bellied stove, and ice formed on the insides of the windows. One night a kid from the street barged in, whacked a customer in the front booth with a baseball bat, and ran out again. When a roomer who lived upstairs died, his body was discovered when maggots started to drop through the ceiling. A man nobody knew was shot dead one night out in back. From the day it opened on December 30, 1966 until the day I stopped drinking in 1979, I drank there more or less every night when I was in town. So did a lot of people.
Jay Kovar and Jeanette Sullivan behind the bar
We critics can't be too careful. Employers are eager to replace us with Celeb Info-Nuggets that will pimp to the mouth-breathers, who underline the words with their index fingers whilst they watch television. Any editor who thinks drugged insta-stars and the tragic Amy Winehouse are headline news ought to be editing the graffiti on playground walls. As the senior newspaper guy still hanging onto a job, I think the task of outlining enduring ethical ground rules falls upon me.
At left: Hitchcock's "Notorious." Bergman on strong axis. Grant at left. Bergman lighter, Grant shadowed. Grant above, Bergman below. Movement toward lower right. The attention and pressure is on her.
I've mentioned from time to time the "shot at a time" sessions I do at film festivals and universities, sifting through a film with the help of the audience. The e-mails I receive indicate this is perceived as some kind of esoteric exercise. Actually, it's something anyone can do, including you, and you don't need to be an expert, because the audience, and the film itself, are your most helpful collaborators. Of course it would be wise to research a film you hope to dismantle in public, and be familiar with its director and context, but I believe the process in its pure form could be applied to a film you've never even heard of. I want to tell you how.
SAVANNAH, Ga. – The chair moves. It truly does. It may not seem like a big deal to you, because you are a reasonable person who is not obsessed with “Citizen Kane,” but I have seen the movie perhaps 100 times, and analyzed it shot-by-shot in at least 30 sessions at festivals and in class, and I thought it contained no more surprises for me. The beauty of the shot-by-shot approach is that the theater is filled with other eyes watching the screen.
Q. I looked at the mysterious face in the funeral scene of "The Godfather" last night (Answer Man, Dec. 2), and I think I can explain it. Before Michael stands up, you can see a glare on the lens, but it is not discernible as a face because it is on a white background. When Michael shifts, so that his suit provides a dark contrast, the glare depicts the face of his mother, who in the scene immediately preceding is seated next to him. Presumably, the actors remained in place for the closeup shot of Michael (Coppola mentioned the shots were done in a hurry), and what we are seeing is a fluke of light, distortion, shadow, and lens peculiarity; the flared edge of the lens picks up the light from just out of the frame. (Mike Spearns, St. John's Newfoundland)
Neil LaBute's new film doesn't take place in Los Angeles or New York or . . . anywhere in particular. There is not a single outdoor establishing shot anywhere in it. "Yeah," LaBute says. "There's no shot of the apartment building we're about to go into, in case you've forgotten what it looks like."