In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

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Lucy in the Sky

There’s a point at which this joke stops being funny and turns sad, and it’s very early in its over two hours runtime.

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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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My Favorite Roger: Odie Henderson

Roger's review of "Living Out Loud."

Why did I pick this review?

“It plays like a short story,” Roger wrote of Richard LaGravenese’s 1998 drama. So does Roger’s review: “He is a short, pudgy elevator operator,” he begins. “She is the newly dumped wife of a doctor. They meet in his elevator, in her co-op building on Fifth Avenue. They seem to have little in common, until they start talking.” 

Roger’s set-up immediately hooked me; my brain conjured up a visual image of the duo well before he informs us that they’re played by “two of the most intensely interesting actors in the movies today, Danny DeVito and Holly Hunter.” Roger calls their scenes “master classes of acting”, especially those that hint at the possible shadiness of Pat (DeVito) after he bums $200 off Violet (Hunter).

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So far, so good. We’ve got intrigue and drama in just a few short paragraphs. And then, just as she does in the film’s opening, Queen Latifah bursts on the scene in Roger’s review. I gasped when I saw her onscreen, and Roger’s brilliant (and accurate) description of her character is the real reason I chose this review:

“This is Liz Bailey (Queen Latifah), a torch singer in a nightclub where Judith likes to drink too many martinis, smoke too many cigarettes and display too much grief. Liz is tall, striking, carries herself with placid self-confidence and wears dresses that display her magnificent bosom—not as an advertisement, but more in a spirit of generosity toward the world.”

That generous, charitable spirit applies to Roger’s writing as well. “Living Out Loud” is a quiet, bittersweet movie about three strangers who, for a brief moment, take comfort in each other’s company. Everyone has been in this kind of social orbit at one point or another, and we get the sense that the film may have conjured up memories of a similar personal experience for Roger. In this review, he tells us a story of some interesting people he met. He wants us to meet them too, because he is absolutely sure that we’ll enjoy them. That confidence is evident in every line. What a sly way to get you to buy a movie ticket.

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