Roger Ebert Home

Laszlo Kovacs


Shattered (1991)
Say Anything (1989)
Little Nikita (1988)
Legal Eagles (1986)
Mask (1985)
Shampoo (1975)
Paper Moon (1973)
Slither (1973)

Blog Posts

Movie Answer Man

Mmmmmm, D'oh Nuts!

Q. In your review of "The Simpsons Movie," you mention that it is already voted as the 166th best film of all time on the Internet Movie Database and ask, "Do you suppose somehow the ballot box got stuffed by 'Simpsons' fans who didn't even need to see the movie to know it was a masterpiece? D'oh!" Likewise, readers of your own Web site on the morning of the film's release already gave it a four-star rating. Don't you think these are merely fans of the movie showing their contempt for you and all other reviewers, and in fact for any but their own opinions?


The Shamus, Mr. Shoop, & blogger catch-up

Pop quiz!

I've spent the summer going to cardiologists and gastroenterologists, how about you?

I like a hemochromatosis screening in June How about you? I dig a cardiac catheterization balloon How about you?

I love an MRI And a CAT scan, too I love endoscopies Holter monitor EKGs How about you?

Oh, it's been fun, fun, fun till the doctor takes the Ambien away! Unfortunately, I couldn't come up with a good rhyme for "ventricular tachycardia" that scanned. "Gastric carcinoid" is also tough. But I've really had all those things -- and a colonoscopy and seborrheic dermatitis and daily zombifying doses of Coreg and more -- just since May! Unfortunately, this has put me far, far behind in my movie blog coverage.

For example, did you know that the terrific critic Michael Atkinson, late of the Village Voice, has joined the blogosphere? Welcome, Michael! You'll find him at Zero for Conduct.

And, weeks ago, TLRHB, the splendid blogger formerly known as That Little Round-Headed Boy, transformed himself into The Shamus over at bad for the glass: a culture blog. The Shamus writes about noir and "Chinatown," of course (BTW, I own the domain name -- and and, too, for that matter), movies, records and record covers, television, cartoons, and all forms of pop culture. I'd love to link to a favorite post or two but... I can't. As The Shamus explains: If you like a post, copy it today. It may not be here tomorrow. The Shamus doesn't play by the blog rules. The template will change. Often. No archiving. One other thing: I don't roll on Shabbas. And Walter, will you put down the god-damned gun?I've been meaning to link to this post by the invaluable girish (The Cinema in Your Head) since the end of May, but where does the time go? Who knows, maybe one day I'll even get around to writing about it myself.

Our beloved David Bordwell has a wonderful piece about the tactile pleasures of studying films frame-by-frame -- not on DVD, but on archival equipment that encourages the practice of Watching movies very, very slowly. A snippet: Viewing on an individual viewer has both costs and benefits. Sometimes details you’d notice on the big screen are hard to spot on a flatbed. But with your nose fairly close to the film, you can make discoveries you might miss in projection. (Ideally, you would see the film you’re studying on both the big screen and the small one.) In addition, of course, you can stop, go back, and replay stretches. Above all, you get to touch the film. This is a wonderful experience, handling 35mm film. Hold it up to the light and you see the pictures. You can’t do that with videotape or DVD.And because it's summer quarter, our Man For All Seasons, the fantastic Dennis Cozzalio at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, has posted another pop quiz: Mr. Shoop's Surfin' Summer School Midterm. Questions this time around include:

2) A good movie from a bad director

6) Best movie about baseball

7) Favorite Barbara Stanwyck performance

8) "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" or "Dazed and Confused"?

13) "Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom" -- yes or no?

20) Name a performance that everyone needs to be reminded of, for whatever reason

Oh, and so much more. PLUS two extra credit questions suggested by recent posts at Scanners!

Also, for a taste of the best of past quiz responses, be sure to sample Professor Corey's Honor Society, Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

And do not neglect to read Dennis's defense/appreciation of Martin Scorsese's misunderstood magnum opus, "New York, New York." As I posted in the comments section: "New York, New York" (after the "Happy Endings" sequence was restored) is a masterpiece. I think it would make a nice (loooong) double-bill with "La Dolce Vita" because both movies are about performance -- creating scenes, playing to the crowd, adopting roles, in public and in private. Those brutal hyper-emotional Scorsese confrontations against mockingly artificial backdrops -- genius. And your selection at this time is a fine tribute to the recently departed Laszlo Kovacs, whose fluid "NY, NY" camerawork is positively musical.

* * * *

I'm mad about polyps Can't get my fill Needles in fingertips They give me a thrill

Holding breath for the ultra-sound Pooping in Sensurround™ May not be new But I like it, how about you?


Opening Shots: 'Juggernaut'

From Richard T. Jameson, Editor, Movietone News, 1971-81; Editor, Film Comment, 1990-2000:

The opening credits of Richard Lester's "Juggernaut" (1974) play over a neutral backdrop that can just barely be detected as an undefined image rather than a simple blank screen. Whether it's an out-of-focus image or something more elemental -- say, the granules of the film emulsion itself -- is hard to say. The basic color is a beige-y grey, with now and then the merest hint of a diagonal band of something warmer attempting to form across the frame. On the soundtrack are noises similarly difficult to ascertain; some suggest hammers falling, an unguessable project under construction, while in other select nanoseconds we seem to be listening to something beyond the normal range of hearing -- the mutual brushing of atoms, perhaps, in an unimaginably microscopic space. In short, nothing; and the essence of everything.

The first shots cut in after the (swiftly flashed) credits have ended, and we get our worldly bearings. An oceanliner is preparing to depart an English port and, among other things, a dockside band is tuning up. I say "first shots," but we won't cheat: there can be only one opening shot, and it's over with before we barely register it. And indeed, why register it? It's nothing dramatic. Indeed, it's barely informational. There are streamers, fluttering limply and unremarkably in the breeze. Send-off streamers; bon voyage and all that. Most of their brief time onscreen, they're out of focus, because that's a gentle way of easing us from the shimmering nothingness behind the credits and into the coherent imagery of a movie we are obliged to pay attention to. Besides, this is 1974, five years after cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs and "Easy Rider" had made rack focus a fashionable, sometimes almost fetishistic aspect of self-consciously contemporary moviemaking. (Not that Kovacs worked on "Juggernaut": the DP is Gerry Fisher, working with Lester for the first and last time.) So out-of-focus and then in-focus streamers, no big whoop. And the movie moves on.

It's only on a second viewing that these streamers may hit us like a fist in the chest. For the essence of the shot is that there are two streamers in particular traversing the frame in clarity. And one is red, one is blue.