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Wonder

You’ll shed a tear or two—especially if you’re a parent—and they’ll be totally earned.

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Mudbound

The film invites us to observe its characters, to hear their inner voices, to see what they see and to challenge our own preconceived notions…

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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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"The Messenger" discussed by Omar Moore of London and San Francisco

May Contain Spoilers

Hello, I'm Omar Moore. I was born and raised in London, where I grew up before moving to New York City with my parents. After branching out in the Big Apple on my own for a number of years, I moved west to San Francisco. I love America and its promise. We all need to do our small part to make this great country even better for all. Where a film is concerned, it is never "only a movie." Images mean something. They have unyielding power and influence, whether in "Birth of A Nation", "Un Chien Andalou", "Night Of The Hunter", "Killer Of Sheep", "Persona", "Psycho", "A Clockwork Orange", "Blazing Saddles", "Straw Dogs", "Soul Man", "Chameleon Street", "Do The Right Thing", "Bamboozled" or "Irreversible". A filmmaker generally doesn't put images in a film if they are meaningless.

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The masters of disaster, by Gerardo Valero of Mexico

May Contain Spoilers

The source for our love of movies is different in each and every one of us. It may date back to our childhood, it may be about a particular film we saw under certain circumstances in our lives. Mine clearly come from one specific genre: the Disaster Film.

I realize they may have never been the most meaningful or profound of all, but they were certainly the one kids my age were discussing in school patios in the early '70s.

Back then hey had the hype, they had the long lines at theaters, they had the awesome John Williams scores, they had Sensurround, they had that unexplicable Best Picture nomination for "The Towering Inferno", they had the posters with the great artwork and the main actors boxed in little squares, depicted in various states of pandemonium.

"Earthquake" was even promoted as "an Event," believe it or not.

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Kathryn Bigelow's uncanny "Strange Days," by Michael Mirasol of the Philippines

May Contain Spoilers

2009 was a great year for Kathryn Bigelow. After a 7-year hiatus from filming K-19: The Widowmaker, she returned to direct The Hurt Locker, a suspense and war film set in Iraq that has deservedly been recognized by critics and award bodies alike, and is expected to be one of the primary contenders for the Academy Awards. Bigelow is known for her superb work in the action genre, which is rarity among female directors. Her skill in filming tension and violence is as good as any of today's directors.

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Omer Mozaffar from Karachi and Chicago: Travels with Clooney in Search of America

May Contain Spoilers

I always look forward to George Clooney's movies. I have to admit, however, that in most movies, he seems to be playing "the George Clooney version of X" or some sort of anti-George-Clooney, who is still that astonishingly handsome man, though weak, withered, and flawed. Perhaps the exception is Syriana, where he is hidden behind whiskers and adipose.

So, even though I greatly appreciated Jason Reitman's previous films, this film - Up in the Air - was going to be another George Clooney celebration. Then, I saw the movie. Jason Reitman stole the show.

Up in the Air is a richly textured movie that invokes a spectrum of our prime emotions. It is a sharp, biting, mirror on society, observing the role that our professions take in defining our lives. When we speak romantically of the American Dream, we speak often of the ability to choose your profession, to choose your destiny. We are taught that you are

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Gerardo Valero of Mexico City on "The Hustler"

May Contain Spoilers

There are great movies and there are others which can only be described as special; movies with philosophies we can't help but apply to our daily lives. Robert Rossen's "The Hustler" for me is such a movie.

A film with a great, main subject (pool) that is secondary in importance to character. A film with unforgettable characters who have unforgettable names. A film with more classic lines than you can count. A film that made me feel disappointed about the hero over and over until the moment arrived when I couldn't feel any prouder.

It has four great performances: Paul Newman, George C. Scott, Jackie Gleason and Piper Laurie, all in top form and all four nominated for Oscars.

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Lisa Nesselson from Paris: On the man who made you think you spoke French

May Contain Spoilers

Paris, Jan. 11 -- The phone rang at 5:30 p.m.. It was France's around-the-clock cable news station France24 asking if I could speak about the death of Eric Rohmer, live, in about 10 minutes. The news was very fresh in France and this was the first I'd heard of it.

Except for François Truffaut and Louis Malle, who both died relatively young, the most prolific talents of the French New Wave era are still at it. Claude Chabrol makes at least one film a year; Jacques Rivette and Alain Resnais released new features in 2009; Agnes Varda is busy mounting conceptual installations when she's not making her delightful documentaries; Jean-Luc Godard is still tinkering away on digital video.

You begin to think they're immortal -- that much like symphony conductors who live to ripe old ages because waving their arms around is excellent exercise, that "pointing into the distance" pose so characteristic of film directors may be a boon to their longevity.

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Omer Mozaffar, a Pakistani-Chicagoan, revisits "The Five Deadly Venoms" (1978)

May Contain Spoilers

After following the discussions of my review of "Avatar," I decided to revisit a movie I so thoroughly enjoyed in my younger days. If you have not yet seen it, I hope you soon get the chance to watch "The Five Deadly Venoms," directed by one of the great Martial Arts directors, Chang Cheh (1978). And, tell me what you think of it.

"The Five Deadly Venoms" has an interesting premise: A teacher has trained a team of five martial arts fighters, each in a specific deadly martial arts style -- centipede (striking at high speeds), snake (able to strike while lying on the ground), scorpion (with powerful kicks), lizard (able to scurry along walls), and toad (thick skinned). Which of these five styles most resembles you? I, obviously, am most like the toad.

This movie has now taken on a new life for me, appealing in a different way than in the past.

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Mike Rix of Johannesburg discusses "District 9," filmed in South Africa

May Contain Spoilers

I was born on the 20th of March 1974 in sunny Johannesburg. My love of movies began at a very young age. 80's classics like "E.T. The Extra Terrestrial," "Back to the Future" and "Rain Man" inspired me to study film after leaving school. At the Pretoria Technikon Film and Television School, my natural talent for low budget clay-mation was discovered when I threw together a one minute mixed-media animated short in the space of a day, which went on to score a unanimous 95% from the resident lecturers.

Since leaving film school in 1996, I've been involved in numerous productions for South African television, working as writer, director, animator and editor on shows such as Options, Arts Unlimited, Rise up and Read, Red Bull Flugtag, Sanlam Money Game, Golf Digest TV and Ultra Simple Golf, as well as numerous music videos, commercials and corporate training films. I also wrote, directed and edited Man in the Street, a micro-budget feature film screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2003.

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Michael Mirasol from Manila:WALL-E is the best film of the decade

May Contain Spoilers

I was born on February 6, 1975, into a quiet family in San Juan, Metro Manila (Philippines). I barely remember anything in that time before we moved at the turn of the 80s. From what I recall, I grew up in a fairly middle class neighborhood, but my mother would tell you that we were always poor. Thanks to mom and dad though, it never felt that way.

My mother grew up in much harder conditions, having only a pair of shoes to walk several kilometers to get to school in the province. Though she was a local beauty, she was smart and tough, working hard all the way to high school. Once she got the chance to move to the city to study at the University of the Philippines , she never looked back. It was still pretty tough for her even after she finished, helping support her 6 sisters. But she did find her way to work as a secretary for several government offices.

My father grew up in the same kind of environment (same province, Bicol region) with his three brothers. He told of childhood memories dating back to the

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Omer Mozaffar, a Pakistani Chicagoan, discusses James Cameron's "Avatar"

May Contain Spoilers

I was born in Karachi, Pakistan, at a very young age. My beloved parents rode the huge wave that was the South Asian diaspora, landing here in Chicagoland, where I've been ever since. Thus, like many of my peers, I've been in a state of constant exile.

On the South Side of Chicago, I'm a Pakistani. In the rest of Chicago, I'm a Southsider. In the rest of America, I'm a Chicagoan. In the rest of the world, I'm an American. That is today's "normal," isn't it? We are simultaneously, unintentionally local and global. Still, the most comfortable spot for me is a center seat in the anonymous darkness of a crowded theater on the opening night of a movie. If you are reading this note on Roger Ebert's blog, then perhaps you feel the same way.

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