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John Gielgud


Elizabeth (1998)
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The Formula (1980)
Caligula (1980)
Lost Horizon (1973)
Julius Caesar (1971)

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Ebert Club

#176 July 17, 2013

Marie writes: Last week, in response to a club member comment re: whatever happened to Ebert Club merchandize (turned out to be too costly to set up) I had promised to share a free toy instead - an amusement, really, offered to MailChimp clients; the mail service used to send out notices. Allow me to introduce you to their mascot...

Ebert Club

#172 June 19, 2013

Marie writes: Widely regarded as THE quintessential Art House movie, "Last Year at Marienbad" has long since perplexed those who've seen it; resulting in countless Criterion-esque essays speculating as to its meaning whilst knowledge of the film itself, often a measure of one's rank and standing amongst coffee house cinephiles. But the universe has since moved on from artsy farsty French New Wave. It now prefers something braver, bolder, more daring...

Ebert Club

#140 October 31, 2012

Marie writes: The ever intrepid Sandy Khan shared the following item with the Newsletter and for which I am extremely glad, as it's awesome..."Earlier this year, the Guggenheim Museum put online 65 modern art books, giving you free access to books introducing the work of Alexander Calder, Edvard Munch, Francis Bacon, Gustav Klimt & Egon Schiele, and Kandinsky. Now, just a few short months later, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has launched MetPublications, a portal that will "eventually offer access to nearly all books, Bulletins, and Journals" published by the Met since 1870."

Ebert Club

#56 March 30, 2011

"Of few deaths can it be said that they end an era, but hers does. No other actress commanded more attention for longer, for her work, her beauty, her private life, and a series of health problems that brought her near death more than once." - Roger, from Elizabeth Taylor, a star in her own category

Far Flungers

You see me here, you gods, a poor old man

It's always difficult to put a play on the stage. Actors and crews work hard amid many setbacks that can happen on and behind the stage. If they are lucky, they will survive today's performance with descending curtain and some fulfillment. Then they will have to struggle for another performance tomorrow with today's performance faded into yesterday.

It sounds gloomy, but people in "The Dresser"(1983) stick together and try to go on while believing they are accomplishing something in spite of their mundane reality in and out of theater. At one moment, one character confides to the other about her life spent on theater business: "No, I haven't been happy. Yes, it's been worth it." Norman, played by Tom Courtenay, can say the same thing if asked.

May contain spoilers

Ebert Club

#36 November 10, 2010

Actress Jill Clayburgh, whose portrayal of women in the 1970s helped define and and reshape the role of leading lady, died last week of chronic lymphocytic leukemia at her home in Lakeville, Connecticut; she was 66. She's best known for her Academy Award nominated roles in "An Unmarried Woman" (Winner: Best Actress Cannes 1978) and "Starting Over." Roger has remembered her on his site: Jill Clayburgh: In Memory.


On actors who are too gay to be in the Musicals

Some people are proposing a boycott of Newsweek because of a silly article that criticizes gay actors -- specifically on TV's "Glee" and in the Broadway revival of the Bacharach-David Musical "Promises, Promises" -- for acting too gay in straight roles. This strikes me as fundamentally hilarious for several reasons, the most obvious of which are:

1) I didn't know anyone needed additional incentive to not read Newsweek, since circulation figures indicate that lots and lots of people have been not reading it without making any concerted effort not to do so.

2) "Glee" and "Promises, Promises" are both Musicals, for god's sake. Where would the Musical be without the participation of gay actors? The movie version of "Paint Your Wagon" -- that's where. You Musical fans want to spend the rest of your lives watching and listening to Clint Eastwood singing "I Talk to the Trees"? Then go ahead and complain that gay performers are too gay to star in Musicals.


Kirk/Spock and Dumbledore

View image Richard Harris as one version of Dumbledore, from "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

First, let's get the quote right. When asked if the "Harry Potter" series character, Prof. Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, a proponent of love as a power in the universe, had ever been in love himself, author J.K. Rowling said last week: “My truthful answer to you... I always thought of Dumbledore as gay.”

That's what started the whole rumpus, which Kristin Thompson analyses in splendid detail at "Observations on film art and 'Film Art'." I am particularly impressed by her post because I found it fascinating reading, even though I've never read a "Harry Potter" book or seen one of the movies.

Note that Rowling did not say Dumbledore was gay. She was explaining how she had always thought of the character she created, "probably before the first book was published." As Thompson reports, Rowling also said in a 1999 interview: “I kind of see Dumbledore more as a John Gielgud type, you know, quite elderly and -- and quite stately.” If I may resort to an idiomatic expression: Hello!?!?!

View image Kirk and Spock (or is it Denny Crane and Alan Shore?) from some "PG-13-rated" K/S fanfiction art: "The Ahn-Woon" (AU Amok Time koon-ut-kalifee kissing), by Gwenaille.

There was no uproar over the Gielgud remark. Others, it seems, had come to think of Dumbledore as more of a Richard Harris type and then a Michael Gambon type, although the movie role had originally been offered to Patrick McGoohan. But her point was that Dumbledore and his best friend Grindelwald had been in love, until the latter became his mortal enemy.

Last weekend, in a discussion about the work of David Cronenberg at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, I recalled that when Cronenberg's "The Fly" was released in 1986, it was widely interpreted as a metaphor for AIDS, and the pain of watching a loved one's body and mind ravaged by disease and transformed into something Other than what they once were. But, after the movie came out, Cronenberg said he'd thought of it simply as a metaphor for getting old, for the degenerative, transforming process of aging. Time and physicality themselves are the autoimmune virus, something to which none of us can develop a resistance.

Does that mean "The Fly" is about aging and not about AIDS? No. Cronenberg, like Rowling, was simply describing his thoughts during the process of creating the work in question.

It is the nature of serial fiction to create a world and let its characters move around in it, while leaving much of what happens to them off-page or off-screen, where we are encouraged to imagine them leading lives beyond what we actually witness as readers or viewers. Indeed, it's essential to the living illusion of the fantasy that we envision characters going about their business between scenes, and not just waiting around off-stage to make their entrances.

As Rowling said of the intense soul-mate relationship between the young Dumbledore and Grindelwald: “It’s in the book. It’s very clear in the book. Absolutely. I think a child will see a friendship, and I think a sensitive adult may well understand that it was an infatuation. I knew it was an infatuation.” Remember, too, that we're talking about a British boys' school here, a place where intimate same-sex relationships are supposedly as commonplace as schoolbooks.

So it's not like Rowling just made this up last week and then tried to slap it onto her seven-book series retroactively....

Movie Answer Man

Movie Answer Man (03/26/2000)

Q. I checked out the "Eyes Wide Shut" DVD to see if the flub I noticed in the movie had been fixed. It had! I'm referring to the appearance of a crew member (or maybe Kubrick himself) reflected in one of the stainless steel shower stall posts in Ziegler's bathroom. This occurs at the end of Dr. Harford's examination of the overdosed woman... just as Ziegler says something about "this being between just you and me." On the DVD, where once there was a reflection there is now a blank white space. It makes me wonder if on the next DVD of Kubrick's "Spartacus," those soldiers with wrist watches will no longer know the time of day. (David Kodeski, Chicago)

Movie Answer Man

Movie Answer Man (06/06/1999)

Q. I ask you to think about one issue with "Star Wars -- Episode I: The Phantom Menace." Look at how George Lucas portrays women in this film. It's pretty backward. The main female character, the Queen, spends the entire film making cumbersome costume changes, even at true heights of danger. Is this a good model for women leaders today, let alone in the future? Her attendants have equally vapid things to do, like walk around with blank stares in orange bathrobes--no weapons allowed. Jabba the Hutt is once again surrounded by his harem of female stereotypes and two other female aliens (blue ones with head appendages) are seen giving a manicure to the kid's opponent in the chariot race. Great role models, eh? Later we briefly see two female fighter pilots, but they come out of nowhere and smack of tokenism. Further, until Lucas actually blows up a female fighter pilot in one of his films, we know he'll never view them as equals. (Dave Monks, San Francisco)


Director works 'magick' with Bard in 'Books'

He is a most precise man, choosing his words with care, saying exactly what he thinks and letting you know he has thought about it a good deal. And with precision and great intellectual clarity, Peter Greenaway makes films that shock, infuriate, confound and bedevil his audiences.


Maggie Smith, "Private Lives"

A great deal of Noel Coward's "Private Lives" is given over to characters being frightfully rude to one another, and perhaps, Maggie Smith thinks, that has a lot to do with the play's perennial appeal."I think it rather intrigues an audience," she was musing the other day. "Perhaps they're rather envious that people can behave in such a way."Of course, the rudeness, that blunt honesty for comic effect, was a very Coward thing. I did his 'Hay Fever' too, and that was full of people being beastly. I think, too, that a play like 'Private Lives' must have been very shocking when it first appeared; people weren't so used to marriage being bandied about like this."While she talked, Miss Smith made herself up in her dressing room, for a matinee of "Private Lives," which opened Tuesday in an elegantly mounted revival at the Blackstone. This production was first staged in London in 1972 (with direction by John Gielgud) and is at the midpoint of an American tour."'Private Lives' has been revived several times in this country," she said. "But it hadn't been done in Britain for a while, and of course it's a play every actor wants to do. It's very witty, even after all the times I've appeared in it, I still find the lines so funny. I've tended to appear mostly in classical plays. . . . But then I imagine 'Private Lives' is a classic by now, isn't it?"The play involves a good deal of verbal and physical abuse among its four main characters. Miss Smith plays Amanda, John Standing plays her former husband, Elyot, and they meet again in France while on honeymoons with their new spouses. They elope, the rejected spouses follow and both the second and third acts end in pitched battles."If you read the original text," Miss Smith said, "it actually reads even more violently than the way we're doing it. People get thrown about the stage and all that sort of thing." She thought she had a copy of the original text in her dressing room somewhere, rummaged around for it, couldn't find it and promised to get organized by this time next week."In those days," she said, "plays in Britain had to be approved by the lord chamberlain, and he was very much disturbed by all the physical stuff, the violence, in 'Private Lives.' Noel had to go and act it all out for him, a scene I would very much have liked to witness."Noel Coward starred with Gertrude Lawrence in the original production of his play, and one of the problems, Miss Smith said, "is to get the sound and rhythm of Coward out of one's head. I keep trying desperately to forget that phonograph record he made of the play!"Wondering aloud why the play has retained so much of its appeal 44 years after its first production, she said it was well to remember that it came out, "not in the Roaring '20s, but in 1930, with bad times just around the corner and a real hunger for some sort of desperate gaiety. in fact, perhaps that's something of the appeal it has now."