The Big Sick
Finds that laughter-through-tears sweet spot, often in the unlikeliest of places.
* 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.
Chaz Ebert highlights films with the potential to get us through the confusing political times of the Trump presidency.
A look at "The In-Laws" in light of its Criterion Blu-ray release this month.
Marie writes: Now this is something you don't see every day. Behold The Paragliding Circus! Acrobatic paragliding pilot Gill Schneider teamed up with his father’s circus class (he operates a school that trains circus performers) to mix and combine circus arts with paragliding - including taking a trapezist (Roxane Giliand) up for ride and without a net. Best original film in the 2012 Icare Cup. Video by Director/Filmmaker Shams Prod. To see more, visit Shams Prod.
I have a friend who promised himself over a decade ago never to be at the service of his career, and rather, that his career should be at his service. The result is that his wife left him, his family looks down on him, he earns a fraction of what his peers earn--a fraction of what his aptitude would dictate (I think he's a genius). He takes most of his jobs on contract, spanning very short periods of time. And, he is one of the happiest, most calm people I know; at least he seems content. In contrast, J.C. Chandor's "Margin Call" (2011) is the story of a group of high-powered bankers getting set to lose their jobs, and perhaps more.
Marie writes: Behold an extraordinary collection of Steampunk characters, engines and vehicles created by Belgian artist Stephane Halleux. Of all the artists currently working in the genre, I think none surpass the sheer quality and detail to be found in his wonderful, whimsical pieces...
Left to right: Little Flying Civil, Beauty Machine, Le Rouleur de Patin(click images to enlarge)
Marie writes: the following moment of happiness is brought to you by the glorious Tilda Swinton, who recently sent the Grand Poobah a photo of herself taken on her farm in Scotland, holding a batch of English Springer puppies!
I've had to defend myself for loving "The War of the Roses" so much. The majority of people I've discussed it with found it too mean-spirited. I realize it deals with an ugly subject but this is a prime example of a movie being great at how it is about its core subject, no matter how touchy. This is one of my all-time favorite films.
Marie writes: I attended three different elementary schools; St. Peter's, Our Lady of Mercy (which was anything but) and finally St. Micheal's; where I met my Canadian-Italian chum, Marta Chiavacci (key-a-vah-chee) who was born here to Italian immigrants. We lost touch after high school, moving in different directions til in the wake of a trip to Venice and eager to practice my bad Italian and bore friends with tales of my travels abroad, I sought her out again.We've kept in touch ever since, meeting whenever schedules permit; Marta traveling more than most (she's a wine Sommelier) living partly in Lucca, Italy, and happily in sin with her significant other, the great Francesco. I saw her recently and took photos so that I might show and tell, in here. For of all the friends I have, she's the most different from myself; the contrast between us, a never-ending source of delight. Besides, it was a nice afternoon in Vancouver and her condo has a view of False Creek...smile...
(click images to enlarge)
Marie writes: you've all heard of Banksy. But do you know about JR...?(click to enlarge image)
I always try to find at least one film at Toronto that's way off the beaten track. I rarely stray further afield than I did Tuesday night, when I found myself watching "Wake in Fright," a film made in Australia in 1971 and almost lost forever. It's not dated. It is powerful, genuinely shocking, and rather amazing. It comes billed as a "horror film," and contains a great deal of horror, but all of the horror is human and brutally realistic.
Donald Pleasence in "Wake in Fright"
The story involves a young school teacher in the middle of the desolate wilderness of the Outback. The opening overhead shot shows a shabby building beside a railroad track, the camera pans 360 degrees and finds only the distant horizon. and then returns to find a second building on the other side of the tracks. One building is the school. The other is the hotel. To get to either, people must have to travel a great distance.
Wayne Newton and Suzanne Pleshette -- er, Emilio Estevez and Demi Moore stud the all-star cast of "Bobby."
We're told that Emilio Estevez's "Bobby" takes place at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968, but it feels like it was originally released back around then. It's "Earthquake" with the RFK assassination as the disaster. It's "Airport." It's "The Towering Inferno." A whole bunch of familiar actors play "colorful" characters swarming around the hotel, and their day will culminate in the death of a Kennedy. They talk about the movies -- new stuff like "The Graduate," "Bonnie and Clyde," "Planet of the Apes" -- but a retired doorman played by Anthony Hopkins explicitly invokes the model for "Bobby" and and its ilk: "Grand Hotel," the 1932 picture with Greta Garbo and an all-star cast. And "Bobby" treats the assassination as an event as strangely distant from its own present-tense as "Grand Hotel" was from 1968.
Sure, the requisite modern political parallels are present, as they are in virtually every film at the Toronto Film Festival this year. On the screen, on TVs in hotel suites, over the soundtrack, are actual speeches and sound bites from Democratic senatorial candidate Robert F. Kennedy, talking about how the country has lost its way in the quagmire of Vietnam, and championing rights for minorities and low-wage workers, etc., etc., etc. (It comes as a bit of a shock to remember that politicians were once articulate and sounded like they knew the meanings of the words they were saying.)
But why make "Bobby," which screened at the Toronto Film Festival as a "work-in-progress"? Why turn this traumatic national event into a Hollywood soap opera? The performances are fine for this kind of glitzy manufactured melodrama ("Where Were YOU When They Shot RFK?"), and on that level it's swell, trashy fun. It's just that the whole concept is inappropriate.
Q. There are a few things you got wrong in your "Godzilla" review that might have added a tenth of a star to that 1.5-star rating. (1) 1. Godzilla doesn't "breathe" fire. In the two shots where that appears to happen, I'm pretty sure it's exploding vehicles that provide the flames. (2) They don't say Godzilla's female. In fact, they make it clear that his reproduction as a male is paradoxical, which leads to all that silliness about asexual reproduction. Of course that's crap writing in itself, since it's only there to explain how they could get a Godzilla's-Nest plot without a second adult giant mutant lizard and without rewriting forty years of Godzilla lore (Godzilla's always been a guy). (Blair P. Houghton, Phoeniz, Ariz.)
Q. Does the character of Rose (as the old woman) die in her sleep at the end of "Titanic?" I've asked a few people who saw the movie, and none of them had that interpretation, but most agree once I've outlined it to them. She tells her story for the first time, and returns the necklace to the ocean and Titanic's resting place, completing the circle of her life. Then, we see her asleep in bed, after the camera slowly moves through her photos, illustrating the full life that she lived. Then, through subjective camera we're welcomed back to the ship, looking new, and greeted by passengers who died when the ship went down. Then she has a big reunion kiss with Jack. Was this just a dream? Or does this scene represent her being welcomed by her fellow shipmates, who have been dead for decades, and her finally joining them? Is this the obvious interpretation, or was it purposely left vague? (Scott Hoenig, Washington, DC)
Q. Why is it that the bald, overweight or physically unattractive actors are always the first to die in horror or disaster films? Does this not reflect a subtle prejudice against those who don't look like Brad Pitt and Cindy Crawford? I knew as soon as I saw that bald guy that he would die, just as the overweight Newman from Seinfeld was doomed in the first Jurassic Film. (John Dempsey, WBEZ, Chicago)
Q. Re the problem of motion sickness in films that make use of hand-held cameras: Actually the easiest way to get over it is just close your eyes and the sensation passes quickly. (Doug Fletcher, RN, Journal of Nursing Jocularity, Mesa, AZ)
Q. I hear there's a remake of "Casablanca" in the works with Kevin Costner and Demi Moore in the Bogart and Bergman roles. True? (James Portanova, Fresh Meadows, N.Y.)
Q. The premise of "Indecent Proposal" might not actually be as outlandish as it sounds. The next time you see Elizabeth Taylor, give her a jolt by suddenly and unexpectedly asking her about the time FRANK SINATRA offered to pay her a MILLION DOLLARS for a single night's roll in the hay. -- Hank Cleary, White Plains, N.Y.
There is no such thing as a critic being right or wrong. He expresses his opinion, and that's that. Yet when "Indecent Proposal" took off into the box office stratosphere, the showbiz analysts chortled that the critics had missed the boat. The film opened to nearly unanimous negative reviews, and yet the public couldn't wait to see it. And the "exit surveys" indicated they liked it, too.
Q. The other night I watched "48 Hours," and one of the subjects they covered was Sean Young. Apparently people who work with her consider her to be trouble. After watching the interview, I tend to agree with those who work with her. My question is this: Why is it that most talented artists appear to be "head cases?" --James R. Tappe
Ebert's Best Film Lists 1967 - present
LOS ANGELES Demi Moore plays a psychic in "The Butcher's Wife," and in preparing for the role she consulted with two real psychics, and they said she. . .