Friday, April 5, 2013

Roger Ebert 1943-2013


Hearing about Roger Ebert's passing yesterday brought back memories. Some very vivid, others very melancholic. I remembered a time when movie criticism meant something and the notion of Friday coming up meant new reviews by Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun Times. His passing will be felt. No one wrote like him. No one loved movies as much as he did. No one convinced me more to watch a movie as he did. He was the epitome of what film criticism should be about, coming from the old school and integrating himself with the new school -with his world famous, highly intelligent blog- but never losing touch of himself or his ideals.

He never let the nasty, relentless cancer he was battling for close to 10 years get to him. It took his jaw and it took away his speech, but it never took away his breathless words. Words that seemed to come out so effortlessly and with such rigor and passion that you almost hated him out of jealousy for the way he could make you or any other film writer look, like a second-tier fool. We all knew this day would come and so did he, but we didn't want to think about it, we didn't want to believe in a film world without him. Now it has come and it feels like the end of an era. The end of a time when a review could mean something and could change the way your perceived everything around you.

Roger Ebert IS the last breed of film criticism, in a world now filled with wannabes masqueraded as bloggers and high brow types. He lived a long fruitful life that I'm sure he was quite appreciative of. We all know of his unadorned love for his wife Chaz - their marriage looked to be  the example of what a reationship should be like. We all know of his love for not just the movies, but writing. And boy did he write well, no film critic wrote as well as Roger. His explanations and notions of a movie were beautifully written and every review he wrote had a passion that defied everything you might have thought about a movie. He made you rethink it all and want to watch the movie again. THAT is really what a film critic is supposed to do. I will miss Roger Ebert tremendously and as life goes on I will go back to his reviews and remember a time when film criticism meant something. The balcony has been closed.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"Side Effects"

Steven Soderbergh's filmography reads like a true cinematic almanac of the past 20 years. Landmark stuff such as “Traffic”, “Out Of Sight”, “Sex, Lies And Videotape”, “Ocean's Eleven”, “The Limey” and “Erin Brokovich” have given the enigmatic director a truly unique style. So it is sad to hear him say that his latest film –Side Effects- will be his last one and that he will start focusing more on producing and TV. Well if he’s going out, it’s with a real bang. “Side Effects” might just be the twistiest, most playful film of his career. An homage to Hitchcock of sorts. To reveal the plot would be the same as explaining to a newbie what Hitchcock's Psycho is about, you just don’t say anything. You want to know as little as possible about the film going into it, its guilty pleasures are surprising to say the least.

This is probably the best big studio movie I've seen so far in 2013, which doesn’t say much considering its competition is non-existent. Even though “Side Effects” is easily the best Hollywood has come up with so far this year, don’t sweat into thinking it’ll make it to the big dance at the Kodak theatre come next March. Soderbergh’s film is not about awards, it is instead about cinematic jolts and it’s got plenty of them in its 100 minute running time.

The actors do a great job, starting with Rooney Mara as a depressive-suicidal ad agent who's husband just got out of jail. Mara, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Social Network, is an actress with a very bright future. The roles she picks have serious depth and the directors she chooses to work with are very talented. She is fast becoming one of my favourite actresses around and in this particular film you can feel the anger, passion and angst that consumes her on a daily basis. It's an emotionally charged performance that again impressed me a whole lot. Ditto Jude Law, who's been MIA the last few years -what with that whole babysitter scandal- but he brings here real dark humor to his lead role as a psychiatrist prescribing meds left and right. I almost forgot just how good of an actor he is, if there is anyone in this film that deserves a nomination it’s him.

This is an entertaining time at the movies and the way Soderbergh handles the camera fully justifies some of the absurd directions the screenplay goes to, especially at the film's end (WTF). That very screenplay could have used some more polish to explain a little better some of the more dumbfounding plot holes. Nevertheless, this is just really well done filmmaking from a director that is a master at his craft. Soderbergh has had a great impact on American cinema in the past 25 years, he is one of the few American directors left that I would truly consider as an “auteur”. I hope this this isn’t the last we hear of him.

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