Ridley Scott's new film Exodus: Gods and Kings recasts the myth of Moses in typically grimdark swords-and-sandals fashion. It... ain't so good. Want something more artful? Look no further than The Prince of Egypt [alt], an underrated masterpiece of DreamWorks' traditional animation era. Directed by Brenda Chapman (a first for women in animation), scored to spectacular effect by Hans Zimmer and Stephen Schwartz, and voiced by, among others, Voldemort, Batman, and Professor X, the ambitious film features gorgeous, striking visuals and tastefully integrated CGI in nearly every scene. It also manages the improbable feat of maturing beyond cartoon clichés while humanizing the prophet's journey from carefree scion to noble (and remorseful) liberator without offending half the planet -- while still being quite a fun ride. Already seen it? Catch the making-of documentary, or click inside for more. [more inside]
I killed At The Movies. The dueling critics format outlived Siskel, the more natural on-air presence of the two. So why didn’t it outlive Ebert?
Life Itself. The documentary based on Roger Ebert’s memoir, by Hoop Dreams’ director Steve James, premiered at Sundance in January and is now rolling out in theaters and on demand.
Roger Ebert has announced that he has had a recurrence of cancer and will be taking a partial hiatus from reviewing while he undergoes treatment. Ebert, who lost the ability to speak and eat to cancer in 2006, filed a career-record 306 reviews in 2012. The news comes as Ebert plans to revamp his website and is considering a Kickstarter campaign to bring back his iconic show At the Movies. A documentary about Ebert directed by Steve James and executive produced by Martin Scorsese is currently in production.
Today is the 100th birthday of Raymond Nicholas Kienzle, better known as Nicholas Ray. The seminal Hollywood-outcast-turned-French-New-Wave idol behind Rebel Without a Cause, Bigger Than Life, Bitter Victory and the hallucinatory Western Johnny Guitar made intensely emotional films about isolated people, often infused with profound desperation and a sense of the nightmarish. Francois Truffaut dubbed him "the poet of nightfall," while Jean-Luc Godard simply declared that "the cinema is Nicholas Ray." He studied architecture under Frank Lloyd Wright, mentored Jim Jarmusch and let Wim Wenders film him as he was dying of cancer. Bob Dylan even wrote a hit song about one of his movies. [more inside]
Starting tonight, Ebert Presents At the Movies will begin airing full episodes of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert’s original PBS show, Sneak Previews. Taking a break from reviewing movies, co-hosts Christy Lemire and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky will introduce and discuss the episodes. Hungry for more classic Siskel & Ebert? Try the invaluable, Ebert-approved SiskelandEbert.org, a growing archive of home-taped episodes of Sneak Previews and At the Movies. [more inside]
For Roger Ebert, it's a prayer that made him "more alert to the awe of existence." For Rober Koehler, it's a kitschy New Age con. For Richard Brody, it perfectly captures the essence of a generation by depicting a character thinking "back to the musings and fantasies of childhood, which are the product of a wondrous and fantastic view of science formed by popular-science books for children and by the commercial artists whose illustrations adorned them." For Stephanie Zacharek, it's "a gargantuan work of pretension." For Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, it's "a creation myth in the guise of a crypto-autobiography" that invents a universe of its own only to destroy it. For J. Hoberman, it's lifeless and dull, "essentially a religious work and, as such, may please the director's devotees, cultists, and apologists." It spent thirty years in development, three in editing and, yes, it contains dinosaurs. The Tree of Life, written and directed by famously reclusive Zoolander fan and "JD Salinger of American movies" Terrence Malick , won the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Tomorrow, it comes out in the United States. [more inside]
Dear M. Night Shyamalan, Sincerely, Omer Mozaffar.
Film editor and sound designer extraordinaire Walter Murch writes to Roger Ebert regarding a fundamental conundrum of current 3D technology: "It is like tapping your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time."
Roger Ebert: "In the last year or two, the world's cinema has become even more available. This instant, sitting right here, I can choose to watch virtually any film you can think of via Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, MUBI, the Asia/Pacific Film Archive, Google Video or Vimeo. At Europa Film Treasures, I can watch films none of us has heard of." Ebert on how the accessibility of film online is making for more and better film criticism from around the world "..by their early 20s, Wael Khairy of Cairo and Seongyong Cho of Seoul had seen every significant film ever made." "The best single film criticism site is arguably davidbordwell.net". [more inside]
When I am writing my problems become invisible and I am the same person I always was. All is well. I am as I should be.
Roger Ebert, his writing, and his battle with cancer are hardly foreign topics here, but this in-depth interview/profile from Esquire about Ebert's illness, loss of speech, and late career burst of creativity is worth a read.
Tennessee Williams said it was the best film version of any of his plays. Roger Ebert called it "awkward and hopeless on its most fundamental level". John Waters calls it a major influence on the development of his taste. [more inside]
Death To Film Critics! Hail The CelebCult! "A newspaper film critic is like a canary in a coal mine. When one croaks, get the hell out. The lengthening toll of former film critics acts as a poster child for the self-destruction of American newspapers, which once hoped to be more like the New York Times and now yearn to become more like the National Enquirer. We used to be the town crier. Now we are the neighborhood gossip."
Roger Ebert to return to writing movie reviews. Love him, hate him, disagree with him, worship him, whatever, but Pulitzer Prize winning movie critic Roger Ebert, after several operations that have left him without the power of speech, will return to writing movie reviews shortly after his 10th Annual movie festival, Ebertfest. Me, personally, I'm happy as heck about this.
In Scenes from an Overrated Career, film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum writes a rare New York Times op-ed arguing that the work of recently deceased director Ingmar Bergman is overvalued compared to Carl Theodor Dreyer and Robert Bresson. Both Roger Ebert and David Bordwell respond to Rosenbaum's takedown of Bergman, while Rosenbaum writes a brief eulogy blog post on Bergman. Meanwhile, another blogger discusses how Antonioni and Bergman hated each other despite recent obits that have paired them together.
"I ain’t a pretty boy no more" Roger Ebert is determined to attend his Overlooked Film Festival tomorrow.
We spend too much time hiding illness. There is an assumption that I must always look the same. I hope to look better than I look now. But I'm not going to miss my festival.[via]
In 30 years of going to Cannes, Roger Ebert has witnessed Francis Ford Coppola suffering from post-Apocolypse insanity and learned Jerry Lewis's secret for preventing riots--but the most interesting character he ever met there was a loudmouthed, fast-talking Texan named Silver Dollar Baxter with an uncanny gift for bluffing...
Roger Ebert's new web site, launched by the Chicago Sun-Times, includes nearly 10,000 pieces of the newly svelte critic's writing, including more than 5,500 film reviews dating back to 1967. Love him or hate him, that's quite a (free) resource. [via TV Barn]
Roger Ebert salutes Buster Keaton in an article in which he says the Great Stone Face is "the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies." High praise indeed! Any other Keaton fans out there? (This is from the Chicago Sun-times--I don't believe registration is required.) And if you want to see Buster smiling--sort of--here's a picture of him with one-time movie partner Fatty Arbuckle.
Ebert gushes: After seeing Steven Spielberg's "Minority Report," my mind was churning with amazement and curiosity. Talking to Spielberg and his star, Tom Cruise, I found myself not an interviewer but simply a moviegoer, talking the way you do when you walk out of a movie that blindsides you with its brilliance.
Roger Ebert savages "John Q." for general dumbness yet agrees with the message: we should have socialized health care. Steve MacLaughlin, however, details how the film greatly misrepresents medical and health care reality just to make its point -- and he fears that Joe Popcorn is going to absorb it as political education. Given that the film is set in the present day, rather than some fictional dystopian future, is this artistic license or irresponsible oversight? Perhaps libelous propaganda?