Saturday, April 6, 2013

Roger Ebert (1942 - 2013)

A few days ago Roger Ebert wrote a blog post where he discussed taking what he called a "Leave of Presence." He was planning to cut back on the number of reviews he was writing in order to concentrate on a few other projects. He jokes that he would finally get to do what he had always dreamed of, reviewing only the movies he wanted to see. He also discussed launching a Kick Starter to get his TV show "At the Movies" back on the air. He probably didn't know at the time that it would be the last blog post he would write.

I didn't read that blog post when he first wrote it. I filed it away to read later, which is of course code for "I'd like to read this but I'll probably forget about it after a couple days." If Roger Ebert had not died I might have never read it. When I heard about his death Thursday afternoon, I immediately went back to read his post. I am not ashamed to say that I was holding back tears as I read it. He had to know how ill he was but he still was making so many plans for what he wanted to do with his life. 

He never gave up on life. Years ago when cancer took his voice, a point when many people may have given up, he found a new voice on the internet. He took to blogging and Twitter and earned himself a completely new fan base in the process. He quickly became one of the most prominent celebrities on Twitter. You already know all this though, I don't need to tell you how popular the man was. Almost everyone I know followed him on Twitter and not just my film geek friends. 

It is not often that a celebrity death effects me. Sometimes I may feel a bit of sadness but then I quickly move on. Roger Ebert's death hit me very hard though. Roger Ebert was a man who was living the dream and you could tell he never took that for granted. This is a man who made a living out of being a film lover. He is the film geek that film geeks aspire to be. Not just because his love of movies made him famous but also because of how respected he was as a human being. 

He was a brilliant writer and a wonderful person. In his death the world has lost someone very special. There is no one like him and I doubt there ever will be again.

Goodbye, Roger. I may not have known you personally but I will miss you.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Room 237 (2012) - Rodney Ascher

Room 237 (2012)
Director: Rodney Ascher
Starring: Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, John Fell Ryan, Jay Weidner

Rodney Ascher's Room 237 (2012) is billed as a documentary about theories surrounding Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film The Shining. In reality it is more of a documentary about how subjective of an art form film can be. The film focuses a lot on how we bring our own biases into the films we see and experience something completely different than someone else watching the same film.

The Shining is probably the perfect subject for such a documentary. It isn't as obviously layered with subtext as something like Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. We've all heard the stories of how meticulous Kubrick was on the set of The Shining, sometimes demanding hundreds of takes of the same shot. With so much attention put into the details of the movie, it is hard to believe he wasn't trying to say something with it.

For the most part, the theories presented in the film are pretty ludicrous but that helps to show how subjective the art form can be. Each of the people interviewed in Room 237 presents a different view of what they saw when they watched The Shining. Some make more sense than others, but they all provide just enough evidence for the viewer to understand why they have this theory. Even when the theories are completely insane, the film makes you want to believe they are true, if only for a moment.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Bay (2012) - Barry Levinson

The Bay (2012)
Director: Barry Levinson
Writer: Michael Wallach
Starring: Kether Donohue, Kristen Connolly, Anthony Reynolds, Michael Beasley, Jane McNeill, Andy Stahl, Christopher Denham, Tim Parati, Stephen Kunken, Frank Deal, Robert C. Treveiler, Justin Welborn

Found footage films tend to be pretty polarizing among film fans. Some people love them because they have a certain realism to them. Some people hate them because they usually try to create realism but fail. However, like any other style of film making, I think there are good found footage films and bad ones. I rarely seek them out but occasionally one will come along that interests me. Recently I quite enjoyed VHS (2012) and I remember seeing The Blair Witch Project (1999) in the theater and it scaring the shit out of me.

When I first heard about Barry Levinson's The Bay (2012), I didn't necessarily have high hopes for it but I was quite interested in seeing it. I grew up near the Chesapeake Bay and to see it taking center stage in a horror movie intrigued me. I was a little disappointed when I found out they didn't actually film near the Chesapeake (choosing North and South Carolina as stand-ins for Maryland) but I can be forgiving of that.

The film follows a young reporter for a local news station as she is sent to Claridge, MD to cover their Fourth of July festivities as her first story. All hell breaks loose when a waterborne parasite infects the town and suddenly she is covering a story that she never expected. Claridge is not a real town in Maryland but it reminds me a lot of some of the towns I grew up near, most especially St. Michaels and Chestertown. They may not have filmed in Maryland but they got the look and feel of these small towns down perfect and that helped sell the movie for me.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Gangster Squad (2012) - Ruben Fleischer

Gangster Squad (2012)
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Writer: Will Beall (screenplay), Paul Lieberman (book)
Starring: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Peña, Robert Patrick

You would think by now I would have learned to trust my instincts about movies. Sometimes you watch a movie trailer and even though you can't quite put your figure on what, something screams "This is going to be terrible! Avoid it at all costs." The trailers for Gangster Squad (2012) gave me that feeling and I chose to ignore it.

The movie stars Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, and Emma Stone, there's no way it could be all bad, right? These three actors wouldn't read a terrible script and decide to go ahead and make the movie anyway. Well, I was wrong. Somehow all these actors read this terrible script and decided that it would make an amazing movie.

Now, when I say the script it terrible, I really mean it. The script is so by-the-numbers, I could tell you everything that was going to happen within the first 15 minutes of the movie. It felt like the script was written by someone who just finished reading "Basic Screenwriting for Dummies." Everything, and I mean everything, that happened in the movie was telegraphed very early on and there was not a single surprise. It was one of those movies where as soon as a character is introduced, you knew whether or not they would survive until the end of the film.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Where have I been?

So, you may have noticed that I haven't written much in this blog in the past year. Well, I assure you that there is a perfectly good reason for that. And here it is:

Yep, that is me and my Wife. We got married on December 12, 2012 at ReBar in Brooklyn, NY. On top of that we also moved to Brooklyn in July 2012. Between moving, finding a job once I got up here, and getting married I just didn't have much time for blogging.