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Mudbound

The film invites us to observe its characters, to hear their inner voices, to see what they see and to challenge our own preconceived notions…

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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.

#175, July 10, 2013

Marie writes: I've been watching a lot of old movies lately, dissatisfied in general with the poverty of imagination currently on display at local cinemas. As anyone can blow something up with CGI - it takes no skill whatsoever and imo, is the default mode of every hack working in Hollywood these days. Whereas making a funny political satire in the United States about a Russian submarine running aground on a sandbank near a small island town off the coast of New England in 1966 during the height of the Cold War - and having local townsfolk help them escape in the end via a convoy of small boats, thereby protecting them from US Navy planes until they're safely out to sea? Now that's creative and in a wonderfully subversive way....

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#167 May 15, 2013

Marie writes: The unseen forces have spoken! The universe has filled a void obviously needing to be filled: there is now a font made entirely of cats. Called Neko Font (Japanese for "cat font") it's a web app that transforms text into a font comprised of cat pictures. All you need to do is write something in the text box, press "enter" on your keyboard and Neko Font instantly transforms the letters into kitties! Thanks go to intrepid club member Sandy Kahn for alerting the Ebert Club to this important advancement in typography. To learn more, read the article "There is now a font made entirely of cats" and to test it out yourself, go here: Neko Font. Meanwhile, behold what mankind can achieve when it has nothing better to do....

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Mad Men: The Other Woman & the Long Walk

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Here's my latest "Mad Men" video, inspired by "The Other Woman" (Season 5, Episode 11). It's my favorite kind of video analysis/criticism: no narration, no inter-tiles, just interwoven images, dialog and music.

NOTE: Don't even think of reading this if you haven't seen "The Other Woman," yet.

"The Other Women," the 11th installment in "Mad Men" Season 5, has one of those great titles (like "Shut the Door. Have a Seat," "The Rejected," "Tomorrowland," "Far Away Places") that keeps resonating as you think back on the episode itself. It begins in a meeting of creative executives in the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce conference room, as Stan tosses out the primary theme -- of the episode and the Jaguar account pitch: "Jaguar: The mistress who will do things your wife won't." And that's the usual definition of "the other woman" -- the rival for the heterosexual breadwinner's affections, the spicy dish on the side. As Megan phrases it, the Jaguar is the mistress and the wife is the Buick at home in the garage. But that's only the beginning.

All three of the show's central female characters have been "other women" under certain circumstances, with various men. Joan has long been Roger Sterling's "other woman" -- not just his extra-marital go-to girl, but his office wife... and (unbeknownst to everyone else) the mother of his child. Peggy slept with Pete on the eve of his wedding to Trudy, got pregnant, and gave up the kid for adoption. She's never slept with Don (though a lot of the people in the SCDP office think that's how she attained her position), but don't underestimate how much her personal and professional second-bananaship has contributed to Don's fortunes as well as her own. It was clear early on how much he preferred her company at work to Betty Draper's at home.

And then Megan came along -- first as an employee (Joan: "He'll probably make her a copy writer; he's not going to want to be married to his secretary") and then as Don's wife -- the "other woman" who, in the eyes of Peggy and the rest of the firm, distracts him from the advertising job to which he was formerly "married." Don is so smitten with her that the company practically has to sue for alienation of affection. ("You've been on love leave," Cooper chastises Don at the end of "Far Away Places." "It's amazing things are going as well as they are with as little as you are doing.")

It all culminates in the line finessed by Michael Ginsberg (the word "mistress" can't be in the ad) and delivered by Don in SCDP's pitch: "Jaguar: At last a thing of beauty you can truly own." That last word deserves some explication. Yes, in the presentation, Don likens the temperamental beauty of the Jaguar to a woman, but the whole point of the proposal is that, as everyone knows, a woman can't be "owned." A car can. I only mention this because I've seen a few commentators claim that "The Other Woman" is an episode about "men trying to own women," and I think that's a bit simplistic. OK, men might wish they could "own" women on some level, but not even Don Draper or Roger Sterling -- not even Pete Campbell, fer chrissakes -- really believes that is possible in 1967.¹

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#98 January 18, 2012

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.

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Mad Men: How to direct an action sequence

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A few images from last week's "Mad Men" (or, as I often think of it, "The Peggy Olson Show Featuring Don Draper") to illustrate why composition and framing (aspects of what you might call cinematic architecture) make a world of difference in how a scene works... or doesn't. This episode, "The Rejected," was directed by John Slattery (who, as Roger Sterling, perfectly accents the new office design) and photographed as usual by Christopher Manley (overseen, of course, by series creator Matthew Weiner). Captions appear beneath the frame grabs below:

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is falling apart, and the first shot shows him tethered to a phone cord, chain smoking, backed into a corner, with the ceiling closing in on him (as ceilings often do on "Mad Men"). The sight of Don compulsively puffing, lighting one smoke with the butt of another (he's on the phone with the notorious Lee Garner [Darren Pettie] from Lucky Strike, Sterling Cooper Draper Price's most financially important, and asshole-ish, client) is just the opposite of the way you would expect the well-groomed star of a TV series would be introduced -- especially in 1965. It turns out the subject of the call has to do with both cigarettes and television: the new FCC regulations for advertising cigarettes on TV. There's a delayed punchline a few shots later, when Don explains to Lee that certain camera angles are also prohibited -- like low angles or wide lenses, "anything that makes the smoker appear super-human." Yeah, we've seen that at work.

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