February 2020 archive

Hooray for Spike Lee, First Black Jury President of the Cannes Film Festival: Cannes Does the Right Thing

“The Lee family sincerely thanks the Festival de Cannes, Pierre Lescure and Thierry Frémaux and the great people of France who have supported my film career throughout four decades. I will always treasure this special relationship. Peace and Love.” Spike Lee Just two years after his Oscar-winning film, “BlacKkKlansman” received a massive standing ovation before earning …

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The HistoryMakers Launches its WomanMakers Initiative With $1 Million Gift from Ursula Burns

At the Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice in New York City on January 31st, Ursula Burns, retired Xerox CEO and current VEON CEO, presented a check for one million dollars to visionary attorney, Julieanna Richardson, Founder and President of The HistoryMakers, to help launch The WomanMakers Initiative and Advisory Board.  The HistoryMakers is comprised of the nation’s largest …

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Saint Frances

There’s an extremely eccentric movie going on within the conventional confines of “Saint Frances.” For me, one of the signs of adulthood is when you realize that nobody has things figured out. Even the most put-together person has demons, weak spots, flaws. Anyone who acts like they’re perfect, or acts like they have all the …

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The Whistlers

The Romanian spy thriller “The Whistlers” isn’t just a genre exercise, but it often feels like one. If you’re looking, you can see some of the ideas that writer/director Corneliu Porumboiu more clearly articulates in interviews about his movie, like how language is either corrupted or co-opted by its users, and how that concept grounds …

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All the Bright Places

“All the Bright Places,” based on the best-selling novel of the same name, is chock full of the kinds of Young Adult tropes that aim to make viewers swoon and soak their hankies with tears. Elle Fanning and Justice Smith are gorgeous together and have lovely chemistry as high school seniors from opposite rungs on …

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The Jesus Rolls

Believe it or not, “The Big Lebowski” isn’t the biggest influence on “The Jesus Rolls,” the long-delayed spin-off film that features John Turturro in the role of Jesus Quintana from that Coen brothers hit. In a truly unexpected decision, Turturro, who also wrote and directed the movie, chose to use Bertrand Blier’s 1974 film “Going …

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Disappearance at Clifton Hill

Pulpy Canadian whodunit “Disappearance at Clifton Hill” is never as fun as it should be, despite a gripping central crime, David Cronenberg playing a scuba diving podcaster, and a nearly deconstructive idea of how the truth is always just out of reach. Director Albert Shin has the various pieces to make such a noir pop like …

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Burden

Andrew Heckler’s “Burden” won the Audience Award at Sundance in January of 2018, and then languished in distribution purgatory for over two years. It’s easy to see why. “Burden” is a tough sell, a film with a logline that makes most people roll their eyes: a KKK member discovers the error of his ways. Who needs another …

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Blood on Her Name

Noir is full of characters doing unreasonable, unwise or just downright stupid things to achieve some untenable goal. Their choices are criminal, driven by the basest instincts and are often wrapped in a delightful, hardboiled amorality. The plot situations escalate, tightening the screws as the antiheroes become more and more desperate. These people inhabit a …

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Straight Up

“Straight Up” is an assured and refreshing first feature from writer/director/star James Sweeney. With the rhythms and conventions of a traditional romantic comedy, it is refreshingly unconventional in form and content, boasting a sharp script and a gift for cinematic storytelling. Sweeney plays Todd, who has been called gay since bullies taunted him in fourth …

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Early Shorts by Great Filmmakers: 2019 Favorites

The list of great, working directors constantly shifts, with different names and faces growing due to critical and commercial success. In 2019 and into 2020, great filmmakers drew big audiences and scores of fans, like with Bong Joon-ho and his dramatic Best Picture win for “Parasite” and Céline Sciamma finding new devotees with her French …

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After Parasite: House of Hummingbird and Other Highpoints of Modern South Korean Cinema

Needless to say, 2019 was one hell of a year for South Korean movie audiences. When we first heard about Bong Joon-ho’s latest film “Parasite,” we simply expected greatness as we always have since his 2003 film “Memories of Murder,” but then “Parasite” turned out be a fantabulous genre piece which subsequently garnered the Palme d’Or …

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The Invisible Man

The abusive male himself might be unseen, but the fear he spreads is in plain sight in “The Invisible Man,” Leigh Whannell’s sophisticated sci-fi-horror that dares to turn a woman’s often silenced trauma from a toxic relationship into something unbearably tangible. Charged by a constant psychological dread that surpasses the ache of any visible bruise, …

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Book Excerpt: Portraits of Resistance: The Cinema of Céline Sciamma

Here at RogerEbert.com, we are pleased to excerpt Orla Smith’s foreword from the new book Portraits of Resistance: The Cinema of Céline Sciamma, which is published by Seventh Row. For more information on the book, click here.  Back in 2015, Céline Sciamma changed the way our Seventh Row team looks at filmmaking. Editor-in-Chief Alex Heeney interviewed her about …

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AMC’s Dispatches from Elsewhere Wants to Warp Your Mind

AMC’s “Dispatches from Elsewhere” is an ambitious, strange drama with eccentricities that often overwhelm what works about it. After four episodes, I have no idea what’s really happening, but I think that’s part of the point. It’s a show about people breaking out of their shells, and the idea is often that the break is what …

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“I’m Not Special”: Lulu Wang Serves Cocktails Garnished with Industry Truths and Filmmaking Advice at Behind-The-Bar Q&A

Sunlight still washed over Los Angeles on Sunday late afternoon when cinema enthusiasts and aspiring professionals began lining up outside Auburn, a fine dining establishment on the corner of Melrose and Citrus, to partake in a one-of-a-kind session between a filmmaker and her audience—a series of boozy exchanges that had us all drunk on unsentimental …

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Making Impossible Movies Happen: Benh Zeitlin on Wendy

When Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) declares that she’s “The Man” in Benh Zeitlin’s Oscar-nominated 2012 debut feature, “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” it doesn’t matter that she’s a six-year-old girl with a dying father and a submerged hometown. The sheer force of her determination, personality and indomitable strength make her unmistakably The Man in every sense, …

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No Solutions: A Personal Examination of Online Anger About Guns Akimbo

“While young critics dream of being pull-quoted, I asked for mine not to be used. Here’s why.” Like some critics, I’ve thought about the feeling of seeing my name attached to a film I loved. It was an unspoken daydream, caught between idealized professionalism and nascent wonder. For Black writers, the chances of being pull-quoted …

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Unflinching The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez Will Haunt You

Netflix’s new true crime six-part series “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez” is one of the toughest things I’ve ever watched. It details graphically the horrendous abuse and death of a child by his mother and stepfather in ways that will make you sick to your stomach. These monsters made every day of an eight-year-old boy’s …

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Impractical Jokers: The Movie

Joe Gatto, Salvatore Vulcano, Brian “Q” Quinn, and James “Murr” Murray hit comedy gold when they came up with the concept of being the Impractical Jokers—a quartet of friends where one person (with an earpiece) is put into an embarrassing candid camera situation, following the instructions of the other three until they can’t anymore. As their …

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