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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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A Look Back at Those We Lost in 2018

Below is a full index of our tributes from 2018, celebrating the unforgettable talent we lost like Penny MarshallStan Lee, Aretha Franklin, Burt Reynolds, and more. Each tribute includes a passage from the obituary, a credit to the respective author, and a link to the full piece. 


John Mahoney (1940-2018) 

“Whether it was in film, on TV, or on stage, John Mahoney found a way to always feel like he was present in a scene, listening to the actor opposite him and not just waiting to say his rehearsed lines. I was lucky enough to see him at the Steppenwolf, and he was so completely captivating that he stole nearly every scene he was in. What he did was so subtle—whether it was in “Frasier,” “Barton Fink,” or on stage—that it probably didn’t get the attention it deserved, but he’s one of those rare actors about which one can honestly say that he made everything he was in just a little bit better. And sometimes a lot.” (Brian Tallerico) [link] 

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Jóhann Jóhannsson (1969-2018) 

“He leaves behind an incredible discography, made from his sensibility to tell stories with minimalist melodies, grandiose arrangements and meditative pacing that challenged the conventions of music composition. Aside from his own accomplishments as a nearly unclassifiable composer, his film work was pivotal to helping numerous movies deeply resonate with audiences.” (Nick Allen) [link

Steven Bochco (1943-2018) 

“On the Mt. Rushmore of TV creators next to faces like Norman Lear and David Chase, there should be a spot reserved for Steven Bochco, the man who changed the medium of television drama in the way he emphasized ensemble over star vehicles and multi-episode arcs over standalone stories. Shows like “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law,” and “NYPD Blue” earned Bochco a stunning 10 Emmy awards, along with prizes from the Directors and Writers Guilds of America and four Peabody Awards. In 1996, he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. He should probably have his own wing.” (Brian Tallerico) [link

Isao Takahata (1935-2018) 

“As a producer, he co-founded the legendary Studio Ghibli with the legendary Hayao Miyazaki and would go on to collaborate with him on a number of his internationally celebrated films as a producer. […] Without his efforts and influence over the years, it is safe to say that the animated film industry would be a markedly different beast than it is now, and definitely a less interesting one to boot.” (Peter Sobczynski) [link]

Milos Forman (1932-2018)

"Milos Forman, the Czech-born filmmaker who helped revolutionize cinema in his home country before moving to America and becoming one of its most celebrated directors as well, has died. The man behind such celebrated films as “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975) and “Amadeus” (1984), both of which won Oscars for Best Picture and earned him prizes for Best Director, passed away from what was described as a short illness at the age of 86 at his home in Connecticut. Mixing together surreal humor, documentary techniques and an interesting blend of cynicism and affection, Forman helped put Czech cinema on the map. When he applied those same techniques to the projects produced in his adopted country, the result was some of the most incisive, knowing and most profoundly American films of his era." (Peter Sobczysnki) [link]

R. Lee Ermey (1944-2018) 

“Ermey was fun to watch. He became an actor by playing himself, a rare breed of man who was familiar as himself—an American, a Marine and later, an actor. While many scream over Hollywood's liberal slant or other preconceived notions, Ermey's presence on screen was an example talent always wins out. We're all winners for having the Sarge in our viewing life.” (BJ Bethel) [link] 

Anne V. Coates (1925-2018): 

“Throughout a career spanning over 60 years, she worked on over 60 films, receiving numerous accolades that included two Oscars and four additional nominations, and is credited with creating perhaps the most famous single cut in movie history. [...] In 2003, she was named an Officer of the British Empire by the Queen in celebration of her career. In 2007, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, who had in the past nominated her work on “Murder on the Orient Express,” “The Elephant Man,” “In the Line of Fire” and “Erin Brockovich," presented her with a Lifetime Achievement Award. She received her second Oscar, a Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2017.” (Peter Sobczynski) [link] 

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Margot Kidder (1948-2018) 

“She was a spiky brunette with a sexy low voice, but she had her goofy side. Her “Superman” director Richard Donner once said that Kidder was so physically maladroit that if she walked into an empty room with a small trashcan in it she would somehow find a way to get her foot caught in that trashcan.” (Dan Callahan) [link

Tom Wolfe (1931-2018) 

“As a journalist, he would take subjects that I would ordinarily have little interest in—Southern California car culture, LSD, the early days of the space program—and attack them with both a zingy writing style that was practically novelistic in nature. He had an enormous depth of detail that made the subjects come to life in the most memorable and unexpected of ways. Later on, Wolfe applied those same techniques in the service of narrative fiction and came up with a series of best-sellers that included one of the most popular and influential novels of the second half of the 20th century.” (Peter Sobczynski) [link

Philip Roth (1933-2018) 

“Early novels like Goodbye, Columbus and later novels like The Humbling might show differences in relative aggressiveness but they grow from the same work aesthetic and the same desired relationship with the reader. Much like the greatest films, they pick you up, they draw you in, they show you a world—and the world, usually, is not the world you would have dreamed up. It is a world in which you are morally and intellectually uncomfortable.” (Max Winter) [link

Harlan Ellison (1934-2018) 

“That said: if you want to send Ellison off in style, do as he encouraged, and not just as he wrote: read more; talk back to any authority figure within earshot; raise a stink if you feel like you're being taken advantage of, even if it's by a friend; value your time, and don't be afraid to walk away from somebody you love if they don't; respect artists by paying for their work; denounce superstition whenever you can, especially when it seems harmless; reject platitudes, and don't let anybody tell you that your informed opinion doesn't matter. Life may be a series of confrontations, as Ellison said at least once, but you can't let the bastards get you down.” (Simon Abrams) [link

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Claude Lanzmann (1925-2018) 

“The 1985 documentary “Shoah” was a movie whose critical reception, at least in its United States incarnation, was defined by a slight paradox. The nine-and-a-half hour movie about the Holocaust, specifically the Nazi death camps operated in Poland, was a work utterly defined by the personality, the aesthetic, and the moral determination, and determinations, of its director, Claude Lanzmann. [...] Lanzmann’s flame was an uncommon one. Filmmakers and people of conscience and compassion the world over would do well to keep its memory close by.” (Glenn Kenny) [link]

Tab Hunter (1931-2018) 

"And yet, it was the very things about him that the system sought to repress—such as a sly, self-effacing sense of humor and his homosexuality—that helped breathe new life into his career a couple of decades down the line. Now that he has left us, three days before his 87th birthday, Hunter will be remembered not just as a pretty face with an admittedly memorable name. He'll also be celebrated as a trailblazer whose accounts of his experiences as a gay matinee idol in Hollywood at a time when such things were unheard of helped pave the way for acceptance." (Peter Sobczynski) [link]

Aretha Franklin (1942-2018)

“Her lyrics told you to think, but her voice taught you to feel. She was a fountain of useful knowledge, too: She could tell you who was zoomin’ who, where Dr. Feelgood’s office was and the exact speed limit on the Freeway of Love. She also knew that the only path to immortality was through her art, so she infused every one of her performances with an otherworldly staying power.” (Odie Henderson) [link]

Neil Simon (1927-2018) 

“Neil Simon’s work was often about human connection. It was a message often hidden in humor, but he was clearly a playwright and screenwriter who believed in empathy and compassion, bringing together disparate personalities to ask a simple but crucial question: If Felix and Oscar can get along, can’t we all?” (Brian Tallerico) [link

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Burt Reynolds (1938-2018) 

“His screen persona often fused the strong-silent jock-adventurer with the anti-establishment wiseass, a combination that had never been attempted in movies before, at least not to such staggering effect. In the '70s and early '80s, Burt (that's how you referred to him, as Burt) was the biggest movie star in existence.” (Matt Zoller Seitz) [link] 

Scott Wilson (1942-2018) 

“Every time I got to talk to him, he was unfailingly kind and open and, best of all, filled with great stories. I mention all of this here upfront because as you read this, I want to stress the fact that he was not just a great actor but a great guy as well. [...] Because of his association with “The Walking Dead,” it was ensured that his passing would not go unnoticed and I can only hope that the renewed interest in the man will inspire some to go looking at some of his past work to see what a truly gifted and memorable actors he was. He may not have been the most famous of actors but when it comes to the things more important than fame—little things like talent and decency—what he left behind will more than stand the test of time." (Peter Sobczynski) [link

Stan Lee (1922-2018) 

“It is impossible to fully grasp the influence Stan Lee had over the world of popular culture since he first achieved fame in the Sixties. As a writer, editor and publisher of comic books, he, along with an extraordinary group of collaborators, revolutionized and expanded what could be said and done in that particular art form in ways that reverberate to this day.” (Peter Sobczynski) [link

William Goldman (1931-2018) 

“William Goldman changed the perception of the screenwriter in Hollywood, often refusing to give in to studio or directorial demands—his list of “unproduced screenplays” is as long as the ones that got made. He was an icon in his industry that helped pave the road for well-known screenwriters that would follow him like Aaron Sorkin and Cameron Crowe. Movies wouldn’t be the same without him.” (Brian Tallerico) [link

Nicolas Roeg (1928-2018)  

“Roeg was one of the least celebrated influential filmmakers of the last half-century. In terms of the techniques that he helped refine, he's as important as Orson Welles or Stanley Kubrick. And if you judged contemporary cinema purely in terms of the grammar that it has borrowed and retained from past masters, you might have to give Roeg the edge, because of how he told stories.” (Matt Zoller Seitz) [link

Ricky Jay (1946-2018) 

“He was a sleight-of-hand magician whose illusions startled and amazed audiences throughout the world; a student of the history of magic who used his extensive knowledge to pen several books, and put together a number of museum exhibitions and lectured extensively on the subject; an actor whose cagey screen presence made him a favorite with such filmmakers as David Mamet and Paul Thomas Anderson; a crucial man behind the scenes who helped create a number of the screen’s most celebrated illusions.” (Peter Sobczynski) [link

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Bernardo Bertolucci (1941-2018) 

“Bertolucci was the opposite of austere, providing the element of danger in these movies—this was dependent on plumbing a sub-conscious that could be seen as out-of-date in some areas, but that was part of taking such risks. Sometimes it felt like Bertolucci was providing the idea of a certain type of Italian film director of his time, and that idea was meant to be more than the sum of his filmography.” (Dan Callahan) [link]

Penny Marshall (1943-2018) 

“To some, she was the co-star of one of the most popular sitcoms of its era and a familiar face/voice on any number of shows over the years. To others, she was a trailblazing filmmaker who became the first American woman to direct a movie that made over $100 million at the box office, a feat she would repeat for a second time just a few years later. Whichever side of the camera she was working on, Penny Marshall was a consummate entertainer who could handle everything from the broadest slapstick comedy to serious drama.” (Peter Sobczynski) [link] 

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