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"The LA premiere of 'Life Itself': Thursday, June 26": Greg Salvatore, the winner of the Google+ Hangout contest awarding tickets to the LA premiere of 'Life Itself,' recounts his experience attending the screening in this wonderful blog on his site, Murmurs from the Balcony.

“The ArcLight Cinemas is one of those theaters where half of the theaters are on the ground floor and the rest are up a flight of stairs. ‘Life Itself’ was upstairs, which is where my ticket was checked. That’s when I noticed I had an assigned seat, and that my seat was quite good. Since there weren’t too many people there yet, I left to find the water fountain and then discovered I had a text from Allison, saying that she was at the table downstairs. I texted back that I was upstairs. ‘Should I come down?’ But, at this point, more people started coming in, so I decided to head back into the theater. That is when I saw Leonard Maltin and his wife enter my row. He was two or three seats removed from where I was and was half-joking with someone about when his review for ‘Life Itself’ would be up. The next person I saw enter was Werner Herzog. I don’t believe his wife made the trip, but he had a ‘handler,’ for lack of a better word. Then I realized that he was going to sit in the row behind me, one seat over from where I was. The woman sitting next to me knew him, as she had worked on a movie with him, and it was surreal to hear Herzog — in his much-imitated and unique voice — talking about such mundane matters with her as possibly wanting popcorn and not needing anything at concessions.”


"How John Oliver and HBO Shattered TV's Comedy-News Format": Variety's Brian Steinberg pens a great piece on how "Last Week Tonight" is providing story segments of game-changing length and depth.

“‘Last Week Tonight’ defies nearly all current norms. The show surrounds soundbites with exposition, rather than letting video stand as the sole element of a segment. It trusts the attention span of its audience, believing a viewership constantly distracted by smartphones and mobile alerts will hang in there for the duration of a story, so long as it is compelling and informative. And it believes people will keep watching even if they might walk away feeling uneasy or unsettled by the issues presented each week despite the many jokes and laughs that are also delivered. In an era during which even the most celebrated newsmagazines have taken to relying on soft celebrity interviews and tales of heinous murders, many could learn something from ‘Last Week Tonight.’ The program is drawing people in with the promise of laughter, but sending them back out to the world with an unexpected element: knowledge.”


"How Spike Lee's 'Do the Right Thing' Changed My Perception of Black America For the Better":'s Michael Mirasol writes a typically excellent, insightful piece of personalized analysis for Movie Mezzanine

“It would take me many repeated viewings of the film across several years to square my sentiments towards it. After shedding my blinders, I finally saw Sal’s refusal to acknowledge the culture of his patrons. I understood the distrust accumulated by the black community over two centuries of racism. I empathized with Mookie succumbing to fury as a rebuke to his atrocious conditions. I realized that no one in the film does the right thing. Spike Lee pushed me to understand all sides of the story, in a time when I had not yet discovered what film criticism was, with no guide to help sort through my confusion. He made me reckon with what I had seen and felt, with the reality of injustice on screen. For the first time, I had experienced something akin to the Black experience. I am eternally grateful for it.”


"Half of 2014's movies fail this basic test of sexism": Kelsey McKinney of reports that only 42 of this year's 80 film releases pass The Bechdel Test, though one of the films highlighted, "Under the Skin," has a very good reason for only having one main female character, since the picture is a commentary on the male gaze among many other things.

“Gender disparity in Hollywood has been a problem for a long time. Even in 2012, women only accounted for 4.1 percent of directors, 12.2 percent of writers, and 20 percent of producers, according to a study by Stacy L. Smith. For years, members of Hollywood claimed that they chose not to make female-focused movies because they did not perform well at the box office, but the study done by ‘fivethirtyeight’ found that movies that passed the Bechdel Test performed just as well at the box office as their failing counterparts. The test seems simple enough to pass. Women have conversations in real life about food, and work, and a myriad of other topics that have nothing whatsoever to do with men. But in movies, those conversations aren't quite as common. Think about last year's ‘American Hustle,’ an Academy Award nominated film about a con-artist. Despite featuring two female characters—Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams—with full personalities and major roles in the plot, ‘American Hustle’ barely passed the test. Only one scene allows the movie to pass, when Jennifer Lawrence's character talks to a politician's wife about nail polish. And so many other movies don't.”


"'Life Itself': A Fitting, Heartrending Tribute to Cinema's Great Appreciator Roger Ebert": The Daily Beast's Marlow Stern interviews "Life Itself" director Steve James at the Nantucket Film Festival.

“It’s Scorsese, a close friend of Ebert’s, who provides the most touching A-list anecdote. Scorsese recalls carrying around Ebert’s glowing review of his debut feature, ‘Who’s That Knocking at My Door,’ in his jacket pocket for a whole year after it was published. Ebert wrote that the film announces ‘the arrival of an important new director.’ Later, in 1980, Ebert and Siskel invited Scorsese to the Toronto Film Festival, where they were to honor him with a career tribute. Scorsese says he was struggling with an awful drug addiction at the time and was suicidal, but that the invite helped save his life. ‘People have told me, I haven’t seen that side of Marty—ever,’ says James. ‘And in all the writing on Marty I’ve read, I’ve never heard that story.’”

Image of the Day

The Chicago Reader's Deanna Isaacs argues that "The Lucas museum brings a vanity project to the lakefront."

Video of the Day

Twentieth Century Fox and Vice Media's Motherboard present three short films documenting the fate of mankind that occurred between Rupert Wyatt's 2011 hit, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," and its upcoming sequel, Matt Reeves's acclaimed "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes." The first short, "Quarantine," is posted above. The others are "All Fall Down" and "The Gun."

Matt Fagerholm

Matt Fagerholm is the former Literary Editor at and is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association. 

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