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Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour stands apart from more routine historical dramas.

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The Man Who Invented Christmas

Not particularly keen on nuance or subtlety, this is a film in which everything, especially Stevens’ decidedly manic take on Dickens, is pitched as broadly…

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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.

#9 May 5, 2010

Congratulations to Cartoon Caption winner Howard DiNatale, whose just won himself a special book prize from Roger!  Contact the Grand Poobah to claim it.  And thank-you to everyone who submitted a caption and or voted; we're sorry it took a while to announce a winner and appreciate your patience.Ebert: Grace Wang created this mosaic of all of us at our Far-Flung best.note: "right click" on photo and open in new window to see total enlarged imageTom Dark poured forth his Journal entries on Ebertfest, and since the poor sod lacks a blog of his own, I have created a special page for it that resides here..

Ebert: I met Howie Movshovitz in 1970 in my first year at the Conference on World Affairs in Boulder. He was an English major, about to transfer into film studies. We've been friends ever since. He went on to become a film critic for the Denver Post and NPR, a professor at the Univ. of Colorado, a film evangelist who treks to small Colorado towns to hold outdoor screenings of classics, and the head of the Starz Cinema Center in Denver. He was a guest at Ebertfest 2010, and filed this report via Colorado Public Radio Colorado Public Radio.

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#7 April 21, 2010

A gift from Hawaii for Club members!

From the Big Kahuna: One of our dear friends for more than 25 years has been Jeannette Hereniko, the founder and for many years director of the Hawaii International Film Festival. Jeannette is a key figure in the world of Asia-Pacific Films in general, and several years ago began the smashingly successful AsiaPacificFilms.com.  As you can see at the link, she offers a treasure trove of streaming films from all over the region--and as she defines it, it's a very large region indeed.

Jeannette (above) is a member of the Club, and writes: "An idea: Would you like to offer your members one free month of streaming movies on AsiaPacificFilms.com? It can save them $8.99 for one month and they can cancel at any time. We can figure out a coupon code for the members to enter that allows them free access for a month. If you like this idea, I'll set the coupon up to start working to coincide with the day you announce it. Anytime after your Festival."

Yes, I like it. This is typical of Jeannette, who was instrumental in my discovery that the Aloha Spirit was something very real, and not a tourist slogan. We'll have a follow-up.

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Opening Shots: 'Ghost World'

From Robb Hamilton, Seattle, WA:

A few weeks ago I took my kids to see "Cars" at a theater off Aurora Avenue in Seattle. Aurora would be a perfect setting for a Clowes/Zwigoff picture: seedy motels, diners, people waiting for buses, adult book stores, etc. We were seeing the movie a week or two after it opened so the crowds had died down. The cast of characters in the lobby getting snacks (the overweight family loading up on jumbo popcorn, the chaperone with the retarded kids, the guy with the NASCAR hat) made me remark to my wife that I felt like i was in a Dan Clowes comic.

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The opening shots of "Ghost World" cut back and forth between "Jaan Pehachaan Ho" from the Bollywood movie "Gumnaam" and a camera movement to the back of Enid's apartment building. We find out at the end of the shot that the movie is playing on Enid's TV. Terry Zwigoff does a great job of capturing Dan Clowes' style as well as Enid's character. All of the inhabitants in the apartments seem brain dead, while Enid's apartment is pink and blue, filled with thrift store finds, toys and a Pufnstuf poster. Later in the movie Enid is eventually able to escape the dead end that is her life. The opening shots of "Ghost World" drop you right into the pages of a Dan Clowes comic book and more importantly shows the juxtaposition between Enid and her surroundings.

An alley off Aurora Avenue North near 80th -- east side of street. Residential facilities on the right; a structure housing the Baseball Barber Shop on the left. Keep heading north for lots, lots more... (A9 Local Search)

JE: Muchas gracias, Hammy! (I recently wrote an appreciation of "Jaan Pehachaan Ho" here.) As you know, I love Aurora and consider it the greatest street in the entire world. (Sorry, State Street -- Seattle's my kinda town.) My theory is that every town in America has an Aurora Avenue (the old Highway 99), a main commercial drag (possibly the former primary arterial route) that takes you past parks, parking lots, and used car lots, and is littered with establishments where merchants provide for the exchange of goods and services of every conceivable type -- from birth (diaper services) to death (funeral homes, cemetaries). In LA, it's Pico Boulevard. In Spokane, I suppose it's Division. Anybody reading this should know the clogged arterial in their particular burgh. What's yours? (BTW, if you want to take a simulated drive down Aurora, you can do so right now, thanks to Amazon's fantastic A9 Local Search, which photographs both sides of streets to help you find just the merchants with the goods and services you require. Here it is: Seattle's Aurora Avenue North, between Green Lake (and Woodland Park) and 80th.)

The way I look at this opening is much like you describe. The first two shots are really a "title card," because they are really a suggested frame-within-the-frame image of "Gumnaam" playing on TV (although we don't know that yet). After the title appears, there's the first shot proper: a great image down the side of an apartment complex, with the silhouettes of wires and ceramic insulators in the foreground. In the windows receding into the distance, we see the flickering of light from cathode-ray tubes. The camera begins to move toward them. Although the rest of the sequence involves cutting back and forth between "Jaan Pehachaan Ho" and shots that slide past and peer into those windows, it feels like one continuous camera movement. I've said it before: It perfectly legitimate to talk about the context for these Opening Shots -- as Robert Horton also does for "Cutter's Way." More images after the jump...

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From 'Gumnaam' to 'Ghost World' to... 'Lost'?

Enlarge image: "Jaan Pehechaan Ho"

Terry Zwigoff ("Crumb," "Bad Santa," "Art School Confidential") said that as soon as he saw this musical number, "Jaan Pehechaan Ho," from the 1965 Bollywood production "Gumnaam," he knew he had to have it for the opening of his film "Ghost World." You can see why. It's mesmerizing -- one of the wildest, craziest musical numbers I've ever seen. The (Lynchian) energy is so frenetic the thing practically pops off the screen. And the way it's directed and choreographed for film is fantastic. The camera is always in the right place, and the shots of the necessary duration. You never feel like the director and editor are just cutting between different angles at random (as in the last few centuries of music videos, or Oliver Stone movies), chopping up and defusing the kinetic energy of the dancers and the dance. Every shot (mostly full shots, with a few mediums and only a few well-chosen close-ups for punctuation) seems to have been planned with the camera in mind, so that the whole dance only exists as assembled on film. That's the way a movie musical number is supposed to be. And there's something going on in just about every part of the frame -- and in the foreground, middle ground and background, too! (I think the opening of the first "Austen Powers" movie was the last time somebody did it right like this.)

The whole number is available on the "Ghost World" DVD, and on the web -- here as an .mpg download and here on YouTube.

Groovy frame grabs and more after the jump.

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Overlooked Film Festival, Take 8

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Some films are born overlooked. Others have it thrust upon them. Among this year's festival entries, "Ripley's Game" has never had a theatrical release in the United States, and "Duane Hopwood" had a release so spotty it seemed designed to hide the film. Yet these are the kinds of films a movie critic views with joy: Films that are a meeting of craft and art. Being able to share them is an incalculable pleasure; everybody should have their own Overlooked Film Festival in the glorious Virginia Theater, all the year around. You have no idea how much fun it is.

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Sundance Festival of independent films opens today

PARK CITY, Utah The future of the American film industry begins its annual convention here today, at the Sundance Film Festival. For the next 10 days, new independent films and documentaries will unspool all over town, in every possible performance space: Wherever two or three gather together, they're probably looking at a movie.

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The evolution of Sundance

PARK CITY, Utah -- The most important little film festival in America opened here Thursday. The Sundance Film Festival, the annual trade fair for filmmakers working outside the studio system, will screen more than 100 films before industry-savvy audiences. People who got off the plane flat broke may fly out of town, clutching contracts. Maybe if we're lucky, there will even be another shoving match in a restaurant, like the one last year between guys from Fine Line and Miramax who both thought they bought the rights to the same film.

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