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Ferdinand

A mostly pleasant surprise in a year that has produced a lack of stellar animated outings.

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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 man living at the edge

May Contain Spoilers

Hi, this is Gerardo Valero and today I'd like to talk to you about "Changing Lanes" in which Ben Affleck plays the typical bright but self-absorbed, school-smart Yuppie who gets to marry the boss' daughter but his knowledge of the ways of the world are rather limited, specially since he's mastered the art of lying to himself all his life. His best friend and ex-lover played by the always excellent Toni Colette is much more self-aware than him but she doesn't have his ambitions, or simply put, she knows the ways of the world too well to want anything to do with what it would require from her, to take the next step in life. It is only because of her love for Banek that she tries to help him by providing ill-advised solutions to his problems, which despite her good intentions only make things worse.

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Run Silent, Run Deep

May Contain Spoilers

The other day I was discussing the physicality of objects with a fellow Far-Flung Correspondent), Grace Wang. We were mourning the death of physical objects. Like me, she shares this preference of actual physical books over e-books, letters over emails, photo albums on a shelf over digitalized photo albums on Facebook. There is something unique about the physicality of them all, something that will always be absent from their digital replacements. Of course recycling these objects goes without saying.

The smell of a book as you turn a soft page, or the excitement of checking the mailbox for snail mail is something many of us will always prefer over clicking a 'Next Page' icon in an e-book or checking an inbox full of emails. It's why the Jimmy Stewart film "Shop Around the Corner" worked better as a romantic comedy than the Tom Hanks remake "You've Got Mail". Yes, both may contain the same content but content has nothing to do with it. I would rather slam a book with anger or crumble a letter than double click a delete button. This need for physical objects is more than just an act of nostalgia; it's a predilection.

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The death of a talk host

May Contain Spoilers

Roger Ebert writes: Alan Berg was a Denver talk-radio host who was murdered on June 18, 1984. He was a goofy-looking bird, with a thin face and a bristly white beard that hid the ravages of teenage acne. He wore reading glasses perched far down on his nose, and he dressed in unlikely combinations of checks and stripes and garments that looked left over from the 1950s. When the members of a lunatic right-wing group gunned him down in the driveway of his home, they could not have mistaken him for anybody else.

I was on Berg's radio show three or four times. I listened to him as I drove down from Boulder to Denver. He was chewing out some hapless housewife whose brain was a reservoir of prejudices against anyone who was the slightest bit different from her. Berg was telling her that no one in his right mind would want to be anything like her at all.

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There will be blood

May Contain Spoilers

Revenge is served raw and simple in "Bedevilled"(2010). The movie delivers exactly what it promises to us, but that is not for free. There are barbarous scenes that make you wince, and then there are bloody scenes that make you cringe, but this South Korean revenge thriller has gallons of emotions to spurt on the screen in its sad, wretched character. It carefully prepares its ground while seemingly following the typical formula of revenge movies featuring abused heroines. It continuously accumulates explosives beneath its surface as the plot progresses. And then, when the time comes, it explodes its anger magnificently like a harrowing bloody aria.

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The Arikan Agenda: Best films of 2010

May Contain Spoilers

An old friend and I reunited for the first time in 13 years in Washington, DC last month, and the talk eventually turned to Facebook, the primary way we've managed to keep in touch, at least recently. I have a particular trait, usually reserved for after a night out on the town, by which friends can easily identify the level of my joviality, when I post videos of classic rock songs. Despite my assertion that a certain amount of fastidiousness should be necessary when it comes to sharing links on Facebook, I tend to disregard my own advice and post widely popular songs by legendary bands, for which I apologized to my friend.

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Mogul seeks employment. Will work from home.

May Contain Spoilers

Those dudes over there in Ho'wood have no idea what makes a movie that the people will fall in love with, only how to front-load some lackluster ideas with massive budgets, multimillion-dollar print and advertising blitzes, and lame distractions like 3-D in lieu of good stories or capable storytelling.Just as all it would take to get truly progressive social policies on the table are public officials who aren't spineless or sociopathic, all the movies need is a creative executive who makes the sane calls, pushes for real ideas instead of bait-and-switch schemes gleaned from the advertising industry.

Pre-1966 Ho'wood (aka Hollywood) was full of such moguls. For all the racism, sexism, jingoism, and general dizziness that marks Hollywood history, it must be said that the businessmen who ran the show early on were at least in touch with audiences and filmmakers, not just baiting them with barrels of cash and empty promises of "awesomeness." (We live in the Awesome Age, where every scrap of popular entertainment is calculated to knock you down on your ass at every instance. The general effect, though, is similar to watching a hyper kid's melodramatic "death" during a round of cops-and-robbers. "There is nothing so boring in life, let alone in cinema, as the boredom of being excited all the time"--Anthony Lane.)

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"Serve the nuts. I mean, serve the guests the nuts"

May Contain Spoilers

I will do most anything to avoid thinking. At the hint of strenuous thought I flee. I run like the dickens. I do not want my world to be disrupted. Seventy five percent of my energy is spent repairing a glorious cocoon of comfort.

Inside this shelter there is no overhead lighting, only lamps. There are no cold mornings or metaphysical crises. Everything is as it should be. Every question is easily answered. There you will find me licking my wounds, secretly enjoying the tang of blood and pus. Thankfully, for the health of body and soul, this cocoon is under constant siege. The valiant twenty five percent of life force that remains does all in its power to destroy a sheltering that in reality is more prison than sanctuary. This twenty five percent is Saint George. The cocoon is the terrible dragon. It is death.

As Cocteau said, "comfort kills creativity." You will find me angrily hissing this to myself all day every day. On good days I heed the wisdom of the French man. On bad ones I refuse.

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The Things We Never Said Any Differently

May Contain Spoilers

I don't know if people actually deal with grief in five stages, but I've always done it in two: depression and acceptance. I really commit to the sadness, too. I lock myself up for a good week, let the woe take me to the places it wants to show me, and I make sure to get a good look. Eventually I work my way to my near-ornamental piano. I'll revisit Chopin, Beethoven and show tunes. Sometimes the disappointment of my rustiness adds volume to the misery, which isn't uninvited. Giving in somehow makes it go away.

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The James Bond template

May Contain Spoilers

Attending the latest James Bond films has been a tradition in my family ever since I can remember, and why not? If anybody went to the movies as often as we did, they were bound to get plenty of "B" grade turkeys, yet the years made clear that just about any 007 film would have something more to offer than most, at the very least those terrific production values. The first one I can recall going to was "Goldfinger" sometime around age 9, to one of those theatrical re-re-releases which were so common before the days of multiplexes and home video. I have to admit that what really motivated me to go see it back then was solely the possibility of being witness to the cinematic version of my old Corgi Aston Martin DB5 model car but, like most audiences, I found many facets which I had become familiar with, in other movies, being taken to a whole new level.

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The call girls who sank a government

May Contain Spoilers

Michael Caton-Jones' 1989 film "Scandal" begins amidst an atmosphere of gaiety and innocence at the start of the 1960s. Bright, resplendent, sparkling visions burst before our eyes. Soon the tones will become darker. "Scandal" chronicles the multi-faceted sex scandal that erupted in the "you've never had it so good" British Tory prime minister Harold Macmillan's conservative government in 1963.

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