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It’s not exactly “good,” per se, but it does what it sets out to do in terms of putting us on edge, which makes it…

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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.

#185 September 18, 2013

Sheila writes: San Francisco-based Jenny Parks is a scientific illustrator, who specializes in drawing wildlife, animals, dinosaurs. She also loves science fiction and cats. The bio on her website states: "Somehow, she found herself with a bit of internet fame with the illustration ‘Doctor Mew’, and has been baffled ever since. With a BFA in illustration from the California College of the Arts, and a graduate degree in Science Illustration from UC Santa Cruz, she now resides in San Francisco as a freelance illustrator, fulfilling her destiny to make a living drawing cute, fuzzy things." Her "Catvengers" series has been linked to all over the place, and I find them whimsical and hilarious. Behold Jenny Parks' Cat-Hulk. See more of her cat series by clicking the "Cats" tab on her site.

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#151 January 16, 2013

Marie writes: And so it begins!  A new year and another season of Film Festivals and Award shows. The Golden Globes have come and gone and in advance of quirky SXSW, there's Robert Redford's Sundance 2013...

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My Life Without Me

May Contain Spoilers

After discovering that a cancer will take her life within a few months, Ann, a young 23 years-old, makes two important decisions: to hide the disease from everyone (including her husband and their two young daughters) and to draw up a list of things she wants to do before her death - and her wishes include "making love to another man" and "causing someone to fall for me." This is the point at which "My Life Without Me," directed and written by Isabel Coixet, risks scaring away its viewers: the attitudes of Ann show, yes, selfishness and immaturity.

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#102 February 15, 2012

Marie writes: my art pal Siri Arnet sent me following - and holy cow! "Japanese artist Takanori Aiba has taken bonsai trees, food packaging, and even a tiny statue of the Michelin Man and constructed miniature metropolises around these objects, thus creating real-life Bottled Cities of Kandor. Explains Aiba of his artwork:"My source of creations are my early experience of bonsai making and maze illustration. These works make use of an aerial perspective, which like the diagram for a maze shows the whole from above (the macro view) while including minute details (the micro view). If you explore any small part of my works, you find amazing stories and some unique characters." ( click to enlarge.)

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#17 June 30, 2010

Marie writes: what do you get a man with a massive book collection who has artwork by Edward Lear and huge canvases by Gillian Ayres?  What would a man with a Pulitzer and a Webby now renowned for the verbosity of his tweeting, like for his birthday? Much pondering went into answering that. Until suddenly a light-bulb went on above my head! (Click image.)Of course!  It's so obvious - turn the Grand Poobah into a super hero!  Super Critic: battling the forces of bad movies and championing the little guy, while tweeting where no critic has gone before!  In the process, we'll get to see him wearing a red cape and blue tights. Perfect.Note: the artwork was done by Dave Fox of INTOON Productions. He makes personalized comic book covers and animation cels. Diane Kremmer, a long time friend and fellow artist, works and lives with Dave on Pender Island (one of the Gulf Islands off the coast of BC near Washington State.) I spent last weekend with them and took advantage of Dave's cartooning skills. I mention this because he did all the work. I just sat there and drank his wine. :-)

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Splice: Will you be my mommy?

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"Splice" has the DNA of a really great philosophical horror/science-fiction movie, but in the less-than-fully formed thing that was delivered to theaters, some of its most promising traits remain recessive, under-developed.

You may notice the first sign of this gestational glitch in the otherwise wonderfully gooey in vitro credits sequence, where the title and the names of the lead actors are spelled out in mutant organic forms, like veins bulging beneath the surface of fetal skin. The credits read: "Screenplay by Vincenzo Natali & Antoinette Terry Bryant and Doug Taylor" -- which indicates that director Natali worked on it with Bryant, and Taylor was probably either the original writer or did enough of a re-write to merit a screen credit. Someone -- or something -- almost certainly re-formed the last half-hour of the movie, when it suddenly dies and comes back as the predictable horror clone into which it had successfully avoided mutating up until that point.

You can almost feel the splice at which the erratically paced, action-packed ending to another, lesser scary movie has been grafted onto the genetic horror of this one. It happens right around the time Sarah Polley says something like "What's happening?" and Adrien Brody (off-screen, looped dialogue?) says, "I don't know. But she's dying." Thank you, Dr. Exposition.

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Be offended. Be very offended.

"My cousin's niece has carpal tunnel, so I think I understand a lot about what it's like to suffer from the discrimination against the autistic in our society."

That's not a direct quote. It's also not much of an exaggeration of the kind of things I've heard people say. Maybe because it's election season, many people's sense of identity politics is going haywire, with individuals pretending they have some special qualifications to speak on behalf of others -- or groups of others -- with whom they don't really have much in common. Mainly, I think, this is because of the narcissism of the speakers, who are not so much concerned with the rights and feelings of those for whom they claim to speak, but are chiefly interested in hogging a moment in the spotlight. Yes, it's all about them and their privileged relationship with... the special, the disadvantaged, the shunned. (See "Literalism advocates literally protest the portrayal of literalists in film." OK, that's really a story about "Blindness" and those who object to metaphors that are too obvious.)

When somebody invokes a real or imagined relationship to a demographic they believe has been sinned against, asserting their personal connection without offering any additional insight, I often want to ask: What are you saying? That you wouldn't be offended if you didn't know somebody who you think has something in common with the group you think should be offended? (Sometimes, as in the fictionalized quotation at the top of this post, they can't even establish a meaningful link.) Prefacing a comment with something like "I know somebody who..." (as in, "Some of my best friends are...") is not, in itself, a sufficient argument. It just makes the speaker sound superficial.

Remember the whole "Tropic Thunder" brouhaha way back in August, when groups protested by carrying signs saying "Ban the Movie, Ban the Word"? (The word was "retard.") Last week, when the picture opened in the UK, the The Guardian ran a pointed piece by David Cox called "The imbecilic truth about the Tropic Thunder retard debate, in which he wrote:

By using the word "retard", Stiller relocates those to whom it's applied back in the real world. By acknowledging the distaste they may inspire, he does them the service of taking their situation seriously. And he reminds audiences that cinema's reluctance to engage honestly with them is ultimately the fault of cinemagoers themselves, not the studios, which must work within the parameters of acceptability.

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IndieWIRE crix poll: American blood, blood, blood

View image Paul Dano anoints Daniel Day Lewis in "There Will Be Blood."

IndieWIRE has announced the results of its annual critics' poll, and Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood" dominates (picture, director, screenplay, cinematography, lead performance), followed by David Fincher's "Zodiac" and Joel & Ethan Coen's No Country for Old Men.

For most American viewers, this is going to be a Netflix list: Two of the top ten movies never barely opened theatrically outside of New York ("Syndromes and a Century," "Colossal Youth"); two never played in more than 20 theaters at once ("Offside," "Killer of Sheep" -- the restoration of Charles Burnett's 1977 film); two haven't opened yet, and won't in most places until 2008 ("There Will Be Blood," "4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days"); and, in these days when wide releases typically launch on 2,000 - 4,000 theaters, two never made it to more than 400 at any given time ("I'm Not There" [149], "The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford" [301]). Only two others ever spread beyond 1,000 screens: "No Country for Old Men" and "Zodiac." Three of the ten best selections -- "Killer of Sheep," "Offside" and "Zodiac" -- are currently available on DVD.

Poll administrator Dennis Lim noted that, compared to 2006 when "the relative dearth of truly exciting films" was lamented by many critics, this year's 106 participants were more enthusiastic about their choices. One eyebrow-raising development was cited in the indieWIRE introduction, though: If there is a strking hole to be found in this year's [poll results]... it is the utter lack of American indie films. While last year's survey celebrated outside-the-system films such as David Lynch's "Inland Empire," Kelly Reichart's "Old Joy," Ryan Fleck's "Half Nelson" and Andrew Bujalski's "Mutual Appreciation," the acclaimed new films from American filmmakers this year came from directly within the Hollywood and Indiewood system, starring name actors.Other poll-toppers: Best First Film (Sarah Polley, "Away from Her"), Best Documentary ("No End in Sight," Charles Ferguson), Supporting Performance (Cate Blanchett, "I'm Not There"), The complete results in all the categories can be scrutinized here. And the individual critics' ballots (including mine) are here.

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