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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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A Midshipman dismisses 'Annapolis'

As an avid reader of your internet column and a Naval Academy Midshipman, I thought it necessary for me to respond to your experience of "Annapolis," a movie that I might find more pertinent and tangible. As a Brigade, we looked forward to the first feature presentation of the United States Naval Academy since the days of black and white film. The day the trailer came out on Touchstone Pictures' webpage, it took up to thirty minutes to watch the lagging preview because virtually the whole Brigade was trying to watch. We waited those thirty minutes. We looked forward to a more realistic portrayal of this institution, or, at the very least, a popcorn movie that showed bells and whistles, something like "Top Gun." Neither was our fortune. Granted, the movie was enjoyable to watch. Base a feature film on your school and you'll like watching it, no matter how clichéd or trite it might be. Add to the fact that the theater in Annapolis, Maryland for the 7:30 P.M. showing was sold out since 10:00 A.M., and ninety percent of the attendees were Midshipmen, you enjoy it just for the company. Other than being mildly entertained, there are few to no Midshipmen that I have talked to that thought it was a good movie. This has less to do with details the director didn't feel necessary to include and that "Annapolis" was filmed in Philadelphia: the screenplay was shallow, the dialogue was stilted and forced, and the direction was sloppy and indifferent.

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'Crash': I got chills

I got chills when I read Tracy Flood of Garland Texas's letter. The thought that a movie could really make people of all colors examine their own prejudices and actions is amazing. When I watched "Crash", I knew it had that effect on me and when Ms. Flood wrote that she had to look at herself because she felt like she was identifying with the racist actions of the characters, that was powerful. When we can recognize that it is sometimes easy to be racist because of a situation we are in, we can better identify the root causes of racism in general and that allows us to fight it. You mentioned in your review of "Max" that some people didn't like that Hitler was "humanized" in the film but that after all, Hitler was indeed human. Only when we realize that racism is happening all over the world in people very much like ourselves, can we start to see how to prevent it from creeping in on our own minds.

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Hurt's so good!

I was thrilled this morning to see William Hurt on the Oscar nomination list. Your review of his work in "A History of Violence" was one of the reasons I went to see it. When you said he “sounded notes we’d never heard before”, you were so on the mark. What a fantastic feature role!

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'Annapolis' is a fantasy

I visited Annapolis in 1998, when I was attending the Naval Academy Prep School. You are aboslutely right, the Annapolis of this movie exists only in the director's imagination. From reading your review, it seems like they can't get the military ranks, jobs and uniforms down to save their lives. No one goes to see these movies that knows anything about the military. If Lt. Cole is a Marine, why did I see him in the previews wearing the uniform of a USNA midshipman? Midshipmen are the students! James Franco is a student there! Also, Lt. Cole is not even wearing a Marine uniform!!! There are Marine officers stationed there as company officers, and they wear their own uniforms. Marines have drill instructors, and they are all enlisted. No officer is a drill instructor. No company officer at USNA would be down where Cole is with the troops. That is the job of the upper class midshipmen. Remember, they are training to be leaders.

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Don't see it in uniform

I am a frequent reader of your reviews, and usually appreciate much of what you have to say about movies, even those I never intended to see anyway ("Freddy got Fingered"? "This movie does not deserve to be in the same sentence with the barrel.") I am a military man, and have a brother at the Naval Academy, however, and so there are a couple of things [about "Annapolis"] I think need clarification: Lt. Cole is not and never was a "marine drill sergeant." Drill Sergeants, per se, are Army, and in the Corps they are called Drill Instructors. Cole, in the movie, is a former Marine NCO. Until the end scene, he is a fellow Midshipman with Huard: he is a Firstie, or a senior. If you will recall his uniform as he boards the bus, it is that of a Marine Corps Second Lieutenant, or O-1. He would not have participated in Brigades had he not been a Mid. And Ali is also a Mid: probably a Second-classman, as she is not yet commissioned when Jake finishes his Plebe year.

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Just middlebrow garbage

I was very surprised and slightly amazed that you pick “Crash” as the best film of the year, especially since I thought it awful. It was just a bad rehash of what Altman has done so brilliantly over the years and also what Paul Thomas Anderson has also been doing so much better than hack Haggis. It was really just a piece of middlebrow garbage. Also I watched your show last Saturday in which you and the other critic picked the 10 worst films and I thought the choices were all easy targets. I mean, come on -- of course these films were rotten. (I would never see any movie with Jessica Simpson in it anyway.) In fact I didn't see any of the films mentioned on either of your lists. As stated above, “Crash” would be on my list of 10 worst films. Also included would be “The Interpreter,” “Batman Begins,” “The Skeleton Key” and “Dark Water.” These are all big-budget Hollywood films and all were terrible. In any case I do enjoy watching you and have respect for your views.

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Opportunity for racial discussion

I just wanted to say “thank you!” I heard about the movie from a friend of mine, who told me, “Go see it then call me back.” His recommendation, which I agree with, is that “Crash” was a great lead into conversations about racism in modern America. Right on! We don't often get such opportunities in everyday life. My friend and I both feel that frank discussions about racism are discouraged, so we really enjoyed not only the movie but the opportunity it provided.

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An 'After School Special'

I was pleased to discover your feature-commentary article entitled "In defense of the year's 'worst movie'" that you had become aware of the negative sentiments surrounding Paul Haggis's “Crash.” However, as you defended the film I gained the impression that you were personally attacking Scott Foundas claiming that he was "too cool" for the average movie-goer. However, it is your right as a columnist to integrate your personality into your articles and you certainly hold the proper distinction to do so.

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