An interview with Guy Vandenberg and Steve Williams, subjects of Paul Haggis and Dan Krauss' documentary, 5B.
A review of HBO's "Show Me a Hero" with Oscar Isaac, Catherine Keener, Alfred Molina, Winona Ryder, Bob Balaban, and Jon Bernthal.
"Those who think "Transformers" is a great or even a good film are, may I tactfully suggest, not sufficiently evolved. Film by film, I hope they climb a personal ladder into the realm of better films, until their standards improve."
-- Roger Ebert, "I'm a proud Brainiac"
"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" is the "Dark Knight" of 2009. In what way? It's the pop-smash action picture that has excited a bunch of fanboys fans who don't usually read movie critics to howl with inarticulate rage about movie critics who don't like their movie. Of course, "The Dark Knight" was met with considerable mainstream critical acclaim, and "ROTFL" with equally considerable mainstream critical disdain, but the important thing to remember is: critics had nothing to do with making these movies hits.
Want to see critics made completely superfluous? Bestow upon them the magical power to predict box-office success. Instead of awarding thumbs or stars or letter grades, they can just provide ticket sales projections that can be quoted in the ads: "I give it $109 million in its opening weekend!" Voila! Instant redundancy, instant irrelevance. Why do you need critics to gauge grosses when you already have tracking reports, followed by the actual grosses themselves?
But I just had to look, Having read the book... -- John Lennon
Really, I just wanted to point out that a glowing blue naked guy is the hero of one of the most anticipated mainstream movies in years. Did you know that? Seriously, though, I do have a dilemma: "Watchmen" opens March 6. I read the compiled comic book series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons back in the early 1990s, I think -- just around the time Terry Gilliam was attached to make the movie version. Here's the poser: Having read the book so long ago I've forgotten it, should I read it again before seeing the movie?
"Watchmen" is something many fans know practically by heart. I know one who attended an early screening of the movie and said it was one of the best adaptations he'd ever seen. An already notorious Nerd World post by "Simpsons" executive producer Matt Selman ("My Own Private Watchmen") broke the review embargo by proclaiming that he didn't consider himself "press" and wasn't actually reviewing the movie, but couldn't control the 14-year-old still living inside him: "Someone took the most special personal thing of my adolescence and put it on a movie screen."
When she put "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" on her Worst Movies of 2008 list, Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwartzbaum referred to the Holocaust melodrama as "Honey, I Gassed the Kids." And, if she honestly believes the movie is as awful as she describes it (and I have no reason to think she doesn't), it is her moral duty as a critic to pummel it with everything she's got. A "dumb summer comedy" can be awful, undendurable; an irresponsible or simpleminded film that exploits and trivializes a "powerful subject" (genocide, racism, pedophilia, rape, suicide, torture, any number of historical atrocities) can be flat-out evil -- precisely because it presents itself as Serious (or Risky or Important or Challenging) Cinema. If filmmakers choose to play with fire, they'd better be morally and artistically equipped to handle the responsibility, or they deserve to get burned.
"The moral of this outrageous, British-accented nonsense appears to be that if you build a death camp, sometimes the wrong people get killed," Schwarzbaum wrote. "Not for the last time, alas, has the Holocaust been co-opted into a kitschy 'universal' story of 'tolerance' about how we're all 'one.' But this one is supposed to be a story for children!"
I can't vouch for Schwarzbaum's take on "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" (although that title made me throw up in my mouth a little, as they say) because I haven't seen it, but I know exactly what she means. I feel the same way about the denial fable of "Life is Beautiful." (Protect your kid from the cruelty and stress of immediate danger by telling him death camps are just fun 'n' games! While you're at it, why not tell him that if he throws himself under a truck it will just bounce off him? And he can really fly if he wants to, too! Don't shatter his dreams!)
TORONTO, Ont. -- Everyone, including me, was under the impression that Kenneth Branagh’s new film “Sleuth” was a remake of the 1972 film. Same situation: Rich thriller writer is visited in his country house by man who is having affair with his wife. Same outcome: They argue, man is killed. Same visit: Police detective. Same so forth and so on.
I have before me a schedule of the 2007 Toronto Film Festival, which opens Thursday and runs 10 days. I have been looking at it for some time. I am paralyzed. There are so many films by important directors (not to mention important films by unknown directors), that it cannot be reduced to its highlights. The highlights alone, if run in alphabetical order, would take up all my space.
Q. A blogger named Brian at takes issue with your remarks about Paul Greengrass' long takes in "The Bourne Ultimatum," writing: "I don't recall a single take in this movie that was more than about three seconds long. Either Greengrass really does a spectacular job of not 'calling attention' to those long takes, or Ebert saw a different movie. But it's very strange, no matter what." (From goneelsewhere.wordpress.com:) Who's right?
View image Pan looks into the future. What does he see?
I'm thrilled to report that Roger Ebert will be filing his own analysis of this morning's Oscar nominations, too. In the meantime, here's what I got: Last summer, according to most industry prognosticators, this whole Oscar race thing was supposed to be all over already. Before its release, Clint Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers" was widely expected to be greeted with flowers and statuettes. The combination of Eastwood and Paul Haggis (screenwriter of the last two Best Picture winners, Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby" and Haggis's "Crash") made the Red Carpet look like a cakewalk. "Letters From Iwo Jima" wasn't even on the release schedule for 2006, so as not to interfere with "Flags"' Oscar chances. Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" (2006) on the other hand, was cheered as a "return to his (generic) roots, " a straight-up commercial cops-and-crooks movie to follow up his prestige-picture Oscar bids, "Gangs of New York" and "The Aviator," but not something seriously For Your Consideration.
Meanwhile, the Christmas roadshow release "Dreamgirls" was positioned as the "Chicago" nominee, a glitzy musical that took years to get to the big screen (the stage version played on Broadway more than 20 years ago), and was thought to be a shoo-in for a Best Picture nomination.
Don't you love it when the conventional wisdom is just wrong?
Story continued at RogerEbert.com
Oscar is growing more diverse and international by the year. This year's Academy Award nominations, announced Tuesday, contain a few titles that most moviegoers haven't seen and some they haven't heard of. That's perhaps an indication that the Academy voters, who once went mostly for big names, are doing their homework and seeing the pictures.
Last summer, according to most industry prognosticators, this whole Oscar race thing was supposed to be all over already. Before its release, Clint Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers" was widely expected to be greeted with flowers and statuettes. The combination of Eastwood and Paul Haggis (screenwriter of the last two Best Picture winners, Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby" and Haggis's "Crash") made the Red Carpet look like a cakewalk. "Letters from Iwo Jima" wasn't even on the release schedule for 2006, so as not to interfere with "Flags"' Oscar chances. Martin Scorsese's "The Departed," on the other hand, was cheered as a "return to his (generic) roots, " a straight-up commercial cops-and-crooks movie to follow up his prestige-picture Oscar bids, "Gangs of New York" and "The Aviator," but not something seriously For Your Consideration.
View image One question: Sure, the desaturated color is extra-artsy looking in a self-consciously pretty/gritty way, but Clint: Why not just go ahead and have the balls to make the movie in black and white?
I don't know if I'll feel the same way about these movies, but these critics have a way with a memorable phrase. (I didn't read past the first line of Gozalez's review -- quoted here -- because I'm seeing the movie when it opens.) And, yes, I'm also quoting them, on my blog, because something tells me I might be inclined to agree with them. I'll let you know either way...
Ed Gonzalez on Clint Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers" (written by William Broyles Jr. and rewritten by Paul Haggis): "The stink of 'Crash' hovers over 'Flags of Our Fathers.'" Nathan Lee on "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning":"Where did Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski) get his flesh mask, and how did he come to select his signature power tool? What’s the back story of Officer Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey), and why does he eat people?
"The answers are beside the point. The movie exists to brutalize. Like 'The Passion of the Christ,' it is an invitation to hard-core sadism. Mel Gibson tried to turn atrocity into spiritual catharsis. The producers of 'The Beginning' merely package it, sell it to the masses and hope they don’t vomit in their nachos. "
David Edelstein on "Jesus Camp":"Although the film tracks several kids—among them the adorable, snub-nosed Rachael and the dapper budding evangelist Levi—its dark heart is preacher Becky Fischer, who tells children that in the Old Testament a warlock like Harry Potter 'would have been put to death.' Oh, sure, she believes in democracy, she says to Air America host Mike Papantonio, but 'we can’t give everyone equal freedom because that’s going to destroy us.' 'Jesus Camp' makes the best case imaginable for atheism."
A disturbing image of frenetic violence and menace -- and some sensuality, if you're into the whole Cronenbergian "Crash" thing.
You may not have noticed one of the most exciting blurbs appearing in ads for "Mission: Impossible III." It reads: "Intense sequences of frenetic violence & menace, disturbing images & some sensuality!" (OK, I added the exclamation point.)
The reason you may not have seen this is because it appears in a little box in the lower left-hand corner of some print ads, and at the end of some TV ads and trailers, in a little box next to the code "PG-13." Yes, "frenetic violence & menace," "disturbing images" and "sensuality" -- though they sound like something a critic or a marketing department might say -- are words (superlatives?) employed by the Motion Picture Association of America (or, if you prefer, the Classification and Rating Administration, or CARA, a subdivision of the MPAA) to describe the reason for their PG-13 rating. Whew! Heady stuff, no?