Inside Llewyn Davis
"Inside Llewyn Davis" is the most satisfyingly diabolical cinematic structure that the Coens have ever contrived, and that's just one reason that I suspect it…
* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.
SNL's diversity problem extends to its writers room; movies, marijuana, and Hoberman; John Waters' one-man show; gender in the WNBA; life imitating Nazi-stolen art.
Ridley Scott's new film, whose production was interrupted by the suicide of the director's brother Tony, is a weird melding of their styles, concerns and temperaments.
French New Wave star Bernadette Lafont passed away July 25th. Lisa Nesselson writes about this bold, amazing actress.
All the movies Stanley Kubrick was known to have liked; the 25 most exciting young female filmmakers in cinema today; Skyler White is not a bitch; why Spike Lee doesn't need Kickstarter; reporter's account of watching her elderly parents getting arrested; scientists implant false memory in a mouse's brain; Paul Thomas Anderson directs Fiona Apple.
Sofia Coppola's privilege problem; why "Happy Birthday to You" isn't in the public domain; surveillance in America, and in the movies; five dictators who despise social media.
(UPDATED) Stanley Kubrick faked the Apollo 11 moon landing. The Newtown massacre and Boston Marathon bombings were "false flag" government conspiracies designed to take away our guns. Also, black is white, rich is poor, Obama is a foreign-born Muslim, work is freedom, freedom is slavery and Mona Lisa was a man.
"Room 237" is a captivating and engrossing new documentary exploring the covert symbols and whacked-out theories that have obsessed ardent fans of Stanley Kubrick's 1980 horror film, "The Shining." From a personal secret statement about the Holocaust to a cryptic confession about his involvement in a supposed NASA cover of the Apollo 11 moon landing, "Room 237" offers the wildly diverse interpretations of five obsessed film fanatics regarding Kubrick's possible hidden intentions. Katherine Tulich interviewed the film's LA based director Rodney Ascher and producer Tim White for this video report.
I walked into "Life of Pi" with extremely high expectations. After all, Ang Lee is a masterful director who helmed two of the greatest modern love stories in film. The trailers assured me that it was a must-see for the visuals alone, and then a friend said that it would transform me to another world through groundbreaking use of cinematography to manipulate the membrane of water. I walked in expecting the greatest use of 3D in film history; I walked out with much more.
Is "Room 237" some kind of crazy joke? Rick Ascher's much-discussed "subjective documentary" features five people who present their theories/interpretations of the "hidden meanings" they say they've found in the rooms and corridors of Stanley Kubrick's Overlook Hotel, the setting of his chilly 1980 horror film, "The Shining." I'm asking a question; I don't know the answer. I haven't yet had the opportunity to see the picture, which has played a number of festivals (Sundance, Cannes, Toronto, NY, London, Karlovy Vary) and has been picked up by IFC Films and is slated for release in 2013. I have seen Ascher's 2010 short, "The S from Hell," however, which the "Room 237" web site says "in many ways laid the groundwork" for the new film. That one is satire.
Everything reminds me of movies. And movies remind me of everything. My life has been divided into roughly three states of consciousness: the time I've spent awake; the time I've spent asleep (and dreaming); the time I've spent in-between, in the dark, inhabiting movie-worlds. They're all essential, holistic components of what you might call my Total Life Experience. And I find that in some respects they all run together, aspects of one seeping into another: images, patterns, metaphors... So, when I read this re-evaluation of the new Apple iPhone 5 -- the feel of the thing -- it struck me as also being about a quality of certain movies that we don't discuss very often.
OK, this is where it really gets interesting. Forget the consensus Top 50 Greatest Movies of All Time; let's get personal. Sight & Sound has now published the top 250 titles in its 2012 international critics poll, the full list of more than 2,000 movies mentioned, and all the individual lists of the 845 participating critics, academics, archivists and programmers, along with any accompanying remarks they submitted. I find this to be the most captivating aspect of the survey, because it reminds us of so many terrific movies we may have forgotten about, or never even heard of. If you want to seek out surprising, rewarding movies, this is a terrific place to start looking. For the past few days I've been taking various slices at the "data" trying to find statistical patterns, and to glean from the wealth of titles some treasures I'd like to heartily recommend -- and either re-watch or catch up with myself.
I know we're supposed to consider the S&S poll a feature film "canon" -- a historically influential decennial event since 1952, but just one of many. I don't disagree with Greg Ferrara at TCM's Movie Morlocks ("Ranking the Greats: Please Make it Stop") when he says that limiting ballots to ten all-time "best" (or "favorite," "significant," "influential" titles is incredibly limiting. That's why I think perusing at the critics' personal lists, the Top 250 (cited by seven critics or more) and the full list of 2,045 films mentioned is more enjoyable pastime.
It's wise to remember that, although the top of the poll may at first glance look relatively conservative or traditional, there's a tremendous diversity in the individual lists. Even the top vote-getter, "Vertigo," was chosen by less than one quarter of the participants.
The big loser in the 2012 Sight & Sound critics poll is... funny. OK, we know there are no losers, only winners! But, still, with the obvious exceptions of "Citizen Kane" and "Rules of the Game," this decade's consensus choices for the Greatest Films of All Time are not a whole lotta laughs, even though they're terrific motion pictures. There's not much in the way of chuckles or joie de vivre to be found in "Vertigo," "Tokyo Story," "Man with a Movie Camera," "The Searchers," "The Passion of Joan of Arc"... At least "Sunrise," "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "8 1/2" have healthy senses of humor, but "Kane" and "Rules of the Game" are the only movies in the top 10 with the propulsive vitality of (screwball) comedy. They are flat-out fun (even if they are regarded as "classics"). And with "Kane" bumped to #2 this time, The List has become, to paraphrase a great comedy from the 1980s, one less funny.
I say this as someone who believes that comedy is everything, and that drama is lifeless (or at least emotionally stunted) without it. Some might argue that comedy without drama is also limited and superficial, but I think comedy is more profound and complex -- and more difficult to pull off successfully. I can name plenty of comedies that capture a mature vision of human existence (if you're into that kind of thing -- like all of Buster Keaton), but a drama that (artificially) excludes humor is feels false and inert to me. [No, I'm not saying the other movies in the Top Ten are humorless or lack cinematic exuberance; just that their energy is not primarily comedic, as i feel Welles' and Renoir's are. To some extent, I'm talking about the overall tendency to value "seriousness" above "humor" in these sorts of exercises.] As for the 2012 Sight & Sound Top Ten, compare it with 1982 ("Singin' in the Rain," "The General"), 1992 ("L'Atlante") and 2002 ("Singin' in the Rain"). The lack of comedy on the new list hearkens back to the Somber Ol' Days of the 1950s, '60s and '70s. As somebody once said: Why so serious?
UPDATED (08/01/12): Scroll to the bottom of this entry to see my first impressions of the newly announced critics' and directors' poll results.
Vittorio De Sica's "Bicycle Thieves" (1948) topped the first Sight & Sound critics' poll in 1952, only four years after it was first released, dropped to #7 in 1962, and then disappeared from the top ten never to be seen again. (In 2002 only five of the 145 participating critics voted for it.) Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane" (1941) flopped in its initial release but was rediscovered in the 1950s after RKO licensed its films to television in 1956. From 1962 to 2002 "Kane" has remained at the top of the poll (46 critics voted for it last time). This year, a whopping 846 top-ten ballots (mentioning 2,045 different titles) were counted, solicited from international "critics, programmers, academics, distributors, writers and other cinephiles" -- including bloggers and other online-only writers. Sight & Sound has announced it will live-tweet the 2012 "Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time" (@SightSoundmag #sightsoundpoll) August 1, and as I write this the night before, I of course don't know the results. But, for now at least, I'm more interested in the process.
Given the much wider and younger selection of voters in 2012, ist-watchers have been speculating: Will another movie (leading candidate: Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo," number 2 in 2002) supplant "Kane" at the top of the list? Will there be any silent films in the top 10? (Eisenstein's "Battleship Potemkin" and Murnau's "Sunrise" tied for #7 on the 2002 list, but the latter was released in 1927 with a Fox Movietone sound-on-film musical score and sound effects.)
Though there's been no rule about how much time should pass between a film's initial release and its eligibility (the Library of Congress's National Film Registry requires that selections be at least ten years old), most of the selections ten to have stood the test of time for at least a decade or two. The newest film on the 2002 list was the combination of "The Godfather" (1972) and "The Godfather, Part II" (1974) -- but they won't be allowed to count as one title for 2012.
(or, Who put the mise in the mise en scène?)
UPDATE: Here's a new, more color-accurate frame grab -- an unmodified screen capture from the new-ish Blu-ray set of the "Alien Anthology."
Look at the frame-grab above from Ridley Scott's "Alien" (1979). I'm not making any high claims for it as a masterpiece of composition, or saying that it has great meaning in the context of the movie, or that it expresses anything typical/archetypal about Scott's style or values (aesthetic, moral). But it sure is a pleasure to take in. You've got the interplay between the right, left and center, the foreground and the background, each in its own space, but visually interrelated. The camera is in the operating room with Dallas and Ash, who are looking at their comatose patient, Kane, whose feet are at left, in a quarantine chamber (because he has a xenomorph hugging his face). In the background, through the window, is the rest of the Nostromo crew, anxiously waiting for news. That's right -- the entire (human) cast of the movie in one shot.
We can hear what the crew is saying as well as what Dallas and Ash are saying (exactly what they're saying is not terribly important, just their worry and uncertainty), though it's not clear if they can all hear one another. The drama is expressed visually: Kane is immobilized, isolated, beyond reach; Dallas and Ash are the intermediaries between his living death (in quarantine) and life, as represented by the rest of the crew, but they don't know what to do; the crew is on the outside looking in, twice removed from Kane who was, until just a short time ago, one of them.
Tilt-shift photography was made for Wes Anderson, even if he doesn't actually use it. His pictures often look like they were filmed that way, because they are exquisite miniatures. Keith Uhlich and any number of others have referred to his "shoebox-diorama" aesthetic. There's a hand-crafted feeling to his movies (too bad George Harrison already used the name "Handmade Films"), from the props and set design to the images themselves, a sense "Moonrise Kingdom" underscores with the use of Super 16mm film stock and a softly aged, yellowed visual texture.
The picture begins in what appears to be a toy house with tiny people living inside -- reminiscent of the cutaway ship set in "The Live Aquatic with Steve Zissou" (or Jerry Lewis's famous construction for "Ladies' Man"). The site is New Penzance Island, 1965 -- somewhere, I would imagine, on a fantasy border between New England and France,* probably across the water from Tativille on the mainland. The postal address (clearly marked on the mailbox) is "Summer's End." The movie is obsessed with charts and maps and measurements and procedures and codes -- all those things that (supposedly, at least) help you figure out where you've been, where you are, where you need to go, and what you need to do to get there.
And, the narrator (Bob Balaban, looking like a grey-bearded bespectacled elf in a bright red coat, black and white mittens and a green stocking cap) tells us, looking us right in the eye, it is indeed early September, just three days before a famously ferocious and well-documented tempest, according to the U.S. Department of Inclement Weather, which keeps track of those sorts of things. I would estimate that 98 percent of the time (I wish I had a graph), Anderson's camera is situated on a tripod or a dolly, moves only at right angles, and always with clockwork smoothness. (There's a Keatonesque boat that sets sail with a similar comically pure, precise and idealized motion that I can only describe as deadpan. It's miraculously urgent and serene at the same time.) The dolly-mounted camera can move left or right, up or down, forward or back, except when it pivots (from 180 degrees to 360 degrees) from a fixed point. The compositions, as you know from "Rushmore," "The Royal Tennenbaums" and so on, are generally balanced, stable and symmetrical, as if viewed through a proscenium. Lots of straight lines and 90-degree angles; few diagonals, except as parallel lines that appear to converge in perspective.
Andrew Sarris, who loved movies, is dead at 83. He was the most influential American film critic of his time, and one of the jolliest. More than anyone else, he was responsible for introducing Americans to the Auteur Theory, the belief that the true author of a film is its director. Largely because of him, many moviegoers today think of films in terms of their directors.
Long-suffering readers will have read many times about my dislike of lists, especially lists of the best or worst movies in this or that category. For years they had value only in the minds of feature editors fretting that their movie critics had too much free time. ("For Thursday's food section, can you list the 10 funniest movies about pumpkin pie?") Now their value has shot way up with the use of slide shows, a diabolical time-waster designed to boost a web site's page visits.
In a field with much competition, Number One on my list of Most Shameless Lists has got to be Time mag's recent list of the "Best 140 Tweeters." How did the magazine present this? That's right, on 140 pages of a slideshow. Considering that the list had no meaning at all except as some hapless intern's grindwork, I'd say that was a bold masterstroke. I say so even though I was on it. Do you think I would click through 140 pages just looking for my name? You bet I did. And then stopped clicking.
Do you expect "The Tree of Life" to be nominated as one of the best films of 2011? When I saw it last spring I certainly did. I assumed it was a done deal. If you'd told me then that "The Artist," a black and white silent film, was stirring up enthusiasm at Cannes, I would have said it sounded like something I really wanted to see.
Roger and I thank you for joining us as we talked about the movies each week this past year. We have enjoyed producing Ebert Presents At The Movies and hope to continue sometime in 2012. This week we produced our last show.
It is the Best and Worst Movies of 2011 and begins airing Friday night, December 30, at 8:30 pm on WTTW, Channel 11 in Chicago, and all during the weekend and next week on public television stations across the nation. (Check local listings to find out what time it comes on in your town.)
Did somebody say "ambiguity"? I'm a big fan. Generally speaking, I much prefer movies with a little uncertainty, or a little emotional ambivalence, to those that spell everything out and tell me exactly how I should feel about it. Most of my favorite movies of 2011 thrive on ambiguity, open-endedness, a sense of the fluidity (or "slipperiness" as I like to call it) of time and space: "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives," "Certified Copy," "Margaret," "Meek's Cutoff"... But sometimes resonant inconclusiveness slips into deliberate laziness, substituting opacity for meaning. And when that happens, it's a shame.
Or, as Ignatiy Vishnevetsky writes, sometimes it's "Shame," the movie by Steve McQueen starring Michael Fassbender and Carrie Mulligan:
... McQueen... opts to shroud the movie in vagueness. This goes beyond the characters--Fassbender as the barely-sketched lead, Mulligan as the generic broken woman (tellingly, her sex life is played as comedy while Fassbender's is played as grand tragedy), Beharie as the foil whose attraction to Fassbender is never explained--and their relationships; Shame is a Choose Your Own Meaning movie, full of blank spaces that a sympathetic viewer can fill with their own interpretations (this culminates in a lengthy sex scene between Fassbender and two women, with Fassbender's facial expression serving as a sort of Rorschach blot).
It's smart filmmaking--and also totally duplicitous and self-serving, the arthouse craftsmanship nearly hiding the film's middle-brow triteness (see also: I Am Love), every scene ladled with big dollops of cinema's most respectable cop-out: ambiguity. When McQueen isn't marking time with exercises in post-slow-cinema aesthetics (as in the long tracking shot of Fassbender sternly jogging to his bitchin' Glenn Gould playlist), he elides and defers. Shame wears its emptiness like a badge of honor; McQueen is trying for banal blankness, and though he succeeds in that respect, you kind of wish that a filmmaker (and one with a background as an artist at that) would aspire to do more than just say nothing.
Marie writes: Belgium club member Koen Van Loocke has submitted the following and it's so awesome, I have no words. But first, background..The Cinematic Orchestra is led by composer/programmer/multi-instrumentalist Jason Swinscoe, who formed his first group "Crabladder" in 1990 while a Fine Arts student at Cardiff College. The group's fusion of jazz and hardcore punk elements with experimental rhythms, inspired Swinscoe to further explore the musical possibilites and by the time the group disbanded in the mid-'90s, he was playing DJ at various clubs and pirate radio stations in and around London.
• "The Outer Limits" (original series) is available on Netflix (DVD), Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video. • "In Cold Blood" is available on Netflix (DVD and Blu-ray) and Amazon Instant Video. • "Cool Hand Luke" is available on Netflix (DVD and Blu-ray) and Amazon Instant Video. • "American Beauty" is available on Netflix (DVD and Blu-ray) and Amazon Instant Video. • "Road to Perdition" is available on Netflix (DVD and Blu-ray).
by Jeff Shannon Eyes Wide Open: A Single Artist's Vision
Ask anyone who's devoted their life to the study and appreciation of movies and they can probably tell you exactly when they were "bitten by the movie bug," that moment of personal epiphany that sparked an all-consuming passion for what is arguably the greatest, most powerful medium of artistic expression.
In my case, it was Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" that literally changed my life. That's an influential milestone I share with many cinephiles who came of age in the 1950s and '60s, especially those "movie brats" (among them James Cameron, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg) who were drawn to imaginative visions of the future. Because I'd spent most of my childhood outdoors or casually enjoying Disney films and other kid-friendly fare, I didn't see Kubrick's visionary masterpiece until it played a return engagement at Seattle's glorious Cinerama Theater, in 1971, when I was nine years old.
(With its huge, curved Cinerama screen, the Cinerama is still the only theater in Seattle capable of showing "2001" as Kubrick intended. It exclusively hosted the film's original 77-week Seattle run beginning in April 1968, and the fully restored 70-millimeter print of "2001" had its world premiere there, appropriately enough, in 2001, two years after the aging cinema was purchased and beautifully renovated by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. It's now one of only three theaters in the world -- along with the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles and the Pictureville Cinema in Bradford England -- equipped to exhibit three-panel Cinerama, requiring three synchronized projectors for the only seven films created in the three-strip Cinerama process, including 1956's "This Is Cinerama" and 1962's "How the West Was Won." Starting this week [Sept. 30th] and running through mid-October, Seattle's Cinerama is hosting a "70mm Festival" of 15 films, including "2001," that originally premiered there.)
Like no other film before it, "2001" opened my eyes to the power of a single artist's vision and led me to understand the supremacy of a great director. I didn't know it then, but I'd discovered the basis of auteur theory, and while it would be foolish to deny that film is (to echo that award-acceptance cliché) the most collaborative of all art forms, it's no contradiction to embrace the Kubrick quote that greets all visitors to kubrickfilms.com, Warner Bros.' authorized Kubrick website: "One man writes a novel. One man writes a symphony. It is essential for one man to make a film." (Disregard "man"; Kubrick would've been the first to include female filmmakers in his statement.)
Each of these astonishing "cinematoGIFs" (animated .GIF files) by Gusaf Mantel distills the essence of a cinematic moment into a living, breathing "movie still" -- an indelible moment preserved in time. Once you start gazing into them, you'll find it hard to stop...
Above: The apes and the monolith: "2001: A Space Odyssey" (Stanley Kubrick, 1968).
Below: The tension of Travis Bickle, keeping his television perpetually balanced on the edge of smashing to the floor: "Taxi Driver" (Martin Scorsese, 1976).
From Tim Davis, Los Angeles:
What do you think of while you listen to classical music? Do you have an education in music, and think of the composer's strategies, or the conductor's interpretation? Do you, in short, think in words at all? I never do, and I suppose that would make me incompetent as a music critic. I fall into a reverie state.