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Thumbnails 10/6/17

Emer Kinsella on "Jungle"; Zadie Smith on social media; John Landis on "Innocent Blood"; "Josie and the Pussycats" was ahead of its time; "The Florida Project" is one of the year's best films.


Thumbnails 4/15/14

Moments in everyday life, captured; Hank Aaron's home runs turned into singles; Say Anything 25-years later; Examining Noah through a Jewish lens; A Silicon valley disaster.

Ebert Club

#178 July 31, 2013

Marie writes: As the dog days of summer slowly creep towards September and Toronto starts getting ready for TIFF 2013, bringing with it the promise of unique and interesting foreign films, it brought to mind an old favorite, namely The Red Balloon; a thirty-four minute short which follows the adventures of a young boy who one day finds a sentient red balloon. Filmed in the Menilmontant neighborhood of Paris and directed by French filmmaker Albert Lamorisse, The Red Balloon went on to win numerous awards and has since become a much-beloved Children's Classic.

Ebert Club

#169 May 29, 2013

Marie writes: Every once in while, I'll see something on the internet that makes me happy I wasn't there in person. Behold the foolish and the brave: standing on one of the islands that appear during the dry season, kayacker's Steve Fisher, Dale Jardine and Sam Drevo, were able to peer over the edge after paddling up to the lip of Victoria Falls; the largest waterfall in the world and which flows between Zambia and Zimbabwe, in Africa. It's 350 feet down and behind them, crocodiles and hippos can reportedly be found in the calmer waters near where they were stood - but then, no guts, no glory, eh? To read more and see additional photos, visit "Daredevil Kayakers paddle up to the precipice of the Victoria Falls" at the DailyMail.

Roger Ebert

Siskel & Ebert at the Jugular

What does it feel like to resemble the Phantom of the Opera? You learn to live with it. I've never concerned myself overmuch about how I looked. I got a lot of practice at indifference during my years as the Michelin Man.

Yes, years before I acquired my present problems, I was not merely fat, but was universally known as "the fat one," to distinguish me from "the thin one," who was Gene Siskel, who was not all that thin, but try telling that to Gene:

"Spoken like the gifted Haystacks Calhoun tribute artist that you are."

"Haystacks was loved by his fans as a charming country boy," I observed.

"Six hundred and forty pounds of rompin' stompin' charm," Gene said. "Oh, Rog? Are those two-tone suedes, or did you step in some chicken shit?"

The real Phantom: Lon Chaney in 1925

"You can borrow them whenever you wear your white John Travolta disco suit from 'Saturday Night Fever,'" I said.

"Yeah, when are you gonna wear it on the show?" asked Buzz the floor director. "Enquiring minds want to know."

"He wanted to wear it today," I said, "but it's still at the tailor shop having the crotch taken in."

"Ba-ba-ba-boom !" said Buzz.

"Here's an item that will interest you, Roger," Gene told me one day, paging through the Sun-Times, his favorite paper, during a lull in the taping of our show. We taped in CBS Chicago's Studio One, home of the Kennedy-Nixon debate.

"It says here, the Michelin Man has been arrested in a fast food court in Hawaii for attempting to impersonate the Pillsbury Dough Boy."


The Coen ideology

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Here's a sampling of various political/ideological (and generic) readings of Joel and Ethan Coen's "No Country For Old Men." This just gets more and more fascinating to me -- probably because I would not emphasize such an approach to the movie myself. (Not that all the following do, either.) I'm frustrated that, before I can write about "No Country" again with a fresh memory, I have to wait another week for it to open in Seattle. For now, a critical debate/montage from multiple perspectives -- those who love it and hate it and have mixed feelings: The mechanics of "No Country for Old Men" recall those of a vintage film noir, and in that respect, the movie is brilliantly executed, as gripping and mordantly funny a treatise on the corrosive power of greed as "The Killing" and "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" were before it. [...]

View image Malcolm McDowell in Lindsay Anderson's 1973 critique of capitalism, "O Lucky Man!"

It’s easy to imagine how the Coens, whose Achilles’ heel has always been their predilection for smug irony and easy caricature, might have turned McCarthy’s taciturn Texans into simplistic Western-mythos archetypes — the amoral criminal, the righteous peacekeeper, and the naive but basically goodhearted rube in over his head. Instead, they’ve made a film of great, enveloping gravitas, in which words like “hero” and “villain” carry ever less weight the deeper we follow the characters into their desperate journeys. Like McCarthy, the Coens are markedly less interested in who (if anyone) gets away with the loot than in the primal forces that urge the characters forward. “They slaughter cattle a lot different these days,” sighs a weary Bell late in the film. But slaughter them they still do, and in the end, everyone in "No Country for Old Men" is both hunter and hunted, members of some endangered species trying to forestall their extinction.-- Scott Foundas, LA Weekly

... [T]he Coens have made a crime movie that seems quietly aghast at the likelihood of death and menace occurring on American soil. Unlike "American Gangster"’s sensationalized crap, this is a crime movie/western exercise that contemporizes the miasma of a world at war. [...]

Coen artistry heightens our level of perception. They reveal the first murder with an astonishing image of shoe sole scuff marks on a jail floor that looks as avant-garde as a Jackson Pollack painting—a harbinger of modern chaos that puts post-9/11 terror in artistic focus. But not sentimentally. When Sheriff Bell expresses existential fatigue, the sorrow he vouchsafes to his father is actually spoken to himself (thus to us in the audience). And still, the Coens contextualize: Bell is brought to reality when his father tells him, “What you got ain’t new. Can’t stop what’s coming. Ain’t all waiting on you. That’s vanity.” The Coens make that wisdom mythical and all encompassing—from Vietnam to 9/11 to Iraq and to the Texas homeland.-- Armond White, New York Press (headline: "A crime movie for a world at war")

The most rewarding thing about "No Country" is the way in which its narrative is set up as a singularly unstoppable force, a shark constantly moving forward (every scene seems to have a goal, every frame initially gives off the impression of tightly relaying crucial plot information), only to allow itself to purposefully break down, both in terms of resolution and traditional narrative payoffs. What initially seems perfectly calibrated and dazzlingly "efficient" is finally revealed as a false comfort: the film's trio of sad characters will probably never be able to emerge from its shadows. The trail of bloodshed that occurs in the wake of the film's central crime feels increasingly less like whiz-bang noir pastiche and more like the final actions of a nation in irrevocable moral decline.-- Michael Koresky, IndieWIRE

On the face of it, "No Country for Old Men" doesn't need to be set in 1980. [...] It could be taking place anytime in the past 40 years, really.

By locating the action in the year of Ronald Reagan's ascension to the presidency, though, "No Country" stands at the pivot of the Old West and the New Avarice, a point in time when the last vestiges of frontier morality have been washed away by a pitiless modern crime wave fueled by drug profits.-- Ty Burr, Boston Globe

The story takes place in 1980, but cut out the cars and the drugs and we could be in 1880—look at Bell and his deputy, saddling up to scour the crime scene. (“You can’t help but compare yourself against the old timers,” Bell confides to us, in voice-over.) Indeed, the characters’ rapport with the soil is more reliable, in its grounded primitivism, than their relations with one another, and the Coens certainly honor the novelist’s abiding preference for the mythical over the modern.-- Anthony Lane, The New Yorker