Let the Sunshine In
The film’s confidence comes in part from the acceptance of the things that can’t be known.
* 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.
A look back at the 1988 Best Picture-nominated comedy, "Working Girl."
Jana Monji reports on the panel for "The Shape of Water" that followed after the film's AFI FEST screening.
A tribute to the great cinematographer.
A tribute to the late Carrie Fisher.
An interview with Simon Helberg, star of Stephen Frears' "Florence Foster Jenkins."
For the 30th installment in his series about maligned masterworks, Scout Tafoya examines Hitchcock's dizzying oddities "Torn Curtain" and "Topaz."
An interview with director Rebecca Miller about her film "Maggie's Plan."
Roger's Favorites: actors John and Joan Cusack.
An appreciation of the late novelist and filmmaker Nora Ephron.
The latest and greatest on Blu-ray, DVD and streaming, including "Spotlight," "The Danish Girl," and "The Graduate."
Rooney Mara regrets "Pan"; U.S. military paper brands hijabs "passive terrorism"; Lena Dunham on Kesha; How Louis CK saved cinema; Harrison Ford's best non-Lucas films.
Members of the RogerEbert.com film community remember the late Haskell Wexler.
An interview with "James White" director Josh Mond and star Christopher Abbott.
An interview with writer/director Ramin Bahrani and actor Noah Lomax of "99 Homes."
An interview with film critic Matt Fagerholm.
We're proud to present the short film "Adelaide" and an interview with its director.
The January 2015 excerpt from Bright Wall/Dark Room on Mike Nichols' "Wit".
"California Split" 40 years later; "Mommy" is my "Boyhood"; The vanishing male worker; How "Lord of the Rings" destroyed the fantasy genre; Caril Fugate on "Badlands."
Remembering Mike Nichols; Kathryn Bigelow's experimental short; The rational wonders of Christopher Nolan; Interviewing Billy Wilder; RIP Leigh Chapman.
Stuart Acher caught Roger Ebert's attention at Sundance 15 years ago. We caught up with him.
Marie writes: Next door, across a long narrow drive and beyond the row of cedar hedges which run parallel to it, there resides an elementary school dating back to 1965, along with an assortment of newer playground equipment rendered in bright, solid primary colors...I'm sure you know the sort I mean...
"People who are just getting 'seriously interested' in film always ask a critic, 'Why don't you talk about technique and "the visuals" more?' The answer is that American movie technique is generally more like technology and it usually isn't very interesting. [...] The important thing is to convey what is new and beautiful in the work, not how it was made - -which is more or less implicit." -- Pauline Kael, "Trash, Art and the Movies" (1969)
"By neglecting to analyze technique, Miss Kael can do no more than assert that a given film is new, or beautiful, hoping that her language will provide the reader with something parallel to the qualities implicit in the work of art." -- Charles T. Samuels, reviewing Kael's 1970 collection Going Steady (which includes "Trash, Art and the Movies") in the New York Times Book Review
"It is this implacable ignorance of the mechanics of filmmaking that prevails in all Kael's books. Yet she is never called on it. The reason, of course, is that her audience knows even less of these mechanics than she does, and professional film people do not wish to incur her displeasure by calling attention to it. She seems to believe that films are made by a consortium of independent contractors -- the writer writes, the cutter cuts, the actor acts, the cameraman photographs. In effect she is always blaming the cellist for the tuba solo." -- John Gregory Dunne, reviewing Kael's Deeper Into Movies (1973) in the Los Angeles Times Book Review
"To me, a good review, good criticism -- whether it's in the Cahiers du Cinema or Film Comment -- would be trying not to say, 'I don't feel,' or 'I don't see it the way you saw it,' but, rather, 'Let's see it. Let's bring in the evidence.'" -- Jean-Luc Godard, debating Kael in 1981 and challenging her approach to criticism
"Listen, you miserable bitch, you've got every right in the world to air your likes and dislikes, but you got no goddam right at all to fake, at my expense, a phony technical knowledge you simply do not have." -- director George Roy Hill in a letter to Kael (quoted in Brian Kellow's biography, "Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark")¹
- - -
In her 1969 Harper's essay "Trash, Art and the Movies," Pauline Kael made her case for trash, saying semi-famously: "Movies are so rarely great art, that if we cannot appreciate great trash, we have very little reason to be interested in them." But what separates "art" from "trash" (whatever she means by those labels) and is it really an either/or question? What if the differences have something (or everything) to do with "technique" (by which Kael, depending on which sentence you cite, might mean anything from technology to professional craftsmanship to directorial style)? After all, her favorite filmmakers (Altman, Peckinpah, De Palma, Godard, Spielberg) are stylists whose artistic vision (trashy vision?) is inseparable from their distinctive techniques. Even at a glance, you're not likely to mistake these auteurs' films for anyone else's.
So, I'd like to look into how the term(s) "technical" and "technique" are used by Kael (mostly in "Trash, Art and the Movies") and in those cherce quotations above. Way back when, Sidney Lumet said he considered Kael one of the most "perceptive and articulate" reviewers to come along in years, but that, like most critics, she lacked "any technical knowledge of how a movie is made." That mattered to him -- maybe especially after she said in his presence (after many spirited libations) that her job was "to tell him which way to go."²
Dunne, the occasional screenwriter, observed: "Few critics understand the roles of chance, compromise, accident and contingency in the day-by-day of a picture."³ I'd add that a failure to recognize the collaborative back-and-forth of the creative process -- and the industrial process -- of making movies (including contractual measures and union guidelines) also contributes to embarrassing critical misunderstandings that regularly find their way into print.
There are two good films at Toronto about the same thing: Romance that begins during the last months of life for a person with cancer. I wrote earlier about Gus Van Sant's "Restless," and now here is "50/50" by Jonathan Levine, with a screenplay by Will Reiser that is said to be semi-autobiographical. As a person who has been in love while dealing with cancer, these films inspire introspection, and while I admire them I realize they are to some degree escapism--poised at the "Bargaining" position at the center of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's five stages of grief.
Mike Nichols' 1971 drama "Carnal Knowledge" is part of a canon of American films of the late 1960s to mid-1970s that mirrored the freewheeling sexual culture and society from which they emerged. These films ("Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice", "Shampoo" and others) examined varied notions of commitment, companionship and sex. "Carnal Knowledge", written by playwright, author and cartoonist Jules Feiffer, shows men talking casually, bluntly and frankly about women, their bodies, of strategies to get sex and of sexual belt-notching, though not necessarily much about the specific act of sex.