Some of these reviews were written in joyous zeal. Others with glee. Some in sorrow, some in anger, and a precious few with venom, of which I have a closely guarded supply. When I am asked, all too frequently, if I really sit all the way through these movies, my answer is inevitably: Yes, because I want to write the review.
I would guess that I have not mentioned my Pulitzer Prize in a review except once or twice since 1975, but at the moment I read Rob Schneider’s extremely unwise open letter to Patrick Goldstein, I knew I was receiving a home-run pitch, right over the plate. Other reviews were written in various spirits, some of them almost benevolently, but of Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, all I can say is that it is a movie made to inspire the title of a book like this.
-Roger Ebert, Your Movie Sucks (2007)
Roger Ebert, unquestionably the most recognizable film critic in the world, has died at the age of 70, according to NPR.
You can check out his vast archive of reviews over here. It’s worth spending some time browsing through his old reviews.
Also, thanks to Kurt for pointing out this essay of Ebert’s from 2011 titled “I Do Not Fear Death.”
From the Earth to the Moon… and now the great beyond. A childhood (and adulthood) hero has today passed from our presence. A daring and courageous guy who captured the world’s attention and hearts with just a single step. If anyone on this Earth is to be remembered for something truly amazing, noteworthy and awe-inspiring, it is surely Neil Armstrong.
Go luck sir. And God speed.
A bizarre bit of news, one that sort of belies any sort of understanding commentary at this point. BBC and other sources are reporting that Tony Scott, director of The Hunger, Top Gun, True Romance, Crimson Tide, Spy Game, Domino, Unstoppable and many other flashy hollywood studio action thrillers, and brother and producing partner of Ridley Scott, jumped from the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro, California, to his death just after noon on August 19th. His body was recovered shortly thereafter and a suicide note was found in his office.
FYI, the large greenish bridge has been featured prominently in films such as William Friedkin’s To Live and Die In L.A., Michael Mann’s Heat and McG’s Charlie’s Angels.
Sad, but inevitable I’m afraid, news out of Toronto today, as one of the last few fully independent Repertory Cinemas, The Toronto Underground Cinema, announced that it was shuttering its doors permanently come September. Issues with the building owners (involving a liquor license) as well as the ongoing slow death of 35mm print distribution have pushed the financials of operating a 700 seat repertory house beyond any fiscal sense for the three owners: Nigel Agnew, Charlie Lawton, and Alex Woodside.
More than a few patrons were often confused by the well spaced scheduling of regular programming at The Underground since it quite successfully hosted Toronto After Dark’s sixth year (The Bloor Cinema, TADFFs usual haunt, was under massive renovations before gathering Patronage from HotDocs as a supported repertory venue. TADFF announced a few weeks ago that it was however returning to the Bloor come October.) With the Lightbox just around the corner, and even the corporate Cineplex up the street getting into the Rep Cinema game (showing Roman Holiday, Blazing Saddles, Robocop and such on occasional Sunday afternoons), not to mention Cinecycle, The Bloor, Projection Booth, and several other operational Rep cinemas all vying for the same eyeballs, it was only a matter of time before the shoe dropped on someone. That someone is Toronto Underground.
Personally, I’ve seen such diverse films as Hard Core Logo, The Innkeepers, A Lonely Place to Die, Speed Racer, Ghostbusters II, Fright Night, Manborg, Pontypool, and Mad Monkey Kung Fu. The venues specialty was always 1980s trash cinema, something that has a close place in my heart. TUC opened its doors in 2010 with a double bill of Clue: The Movie and Big Trouble in Little China and will close September with screenings of apocalyptic horror film Night of the Comet and concert Doc, The Last Waltz.
In the immortal words of Jack Burton, Toronto rep cinema-goers should heed the following advice: “You people sit tight, hold the fort and keep the home fires burning. And if we’re not back by dawn… call the president. “
Andrew Sarris (1928 – 2012)
“At this late date I am prepared to concede that auteurism is and always has been more a tendency than a theory, more a mystique than a methodology, more an editorial policy than an aesthetic procedure. The cinema is a deep, dark mystery that we auteurists are attempting to solve, and, what is infinitely more difficult, to report our findings in readable prose. The cinema is a labyrinth with a treacherous relation to reality. I suppose that the difference between auteurism and Allen Smithee-worship is the difference between knowing all the questions before finding the answers, and knowing all the answers before formulating the questions.”
From all accounts Ralph McQuarrie was a really special person. Not just for his amazing talents with a paint brush, but for who he was as a person. Everyone who got to meet the man or had him as part of their lives personally all say the same thing: “He was an especially kind, sensitive, deep, modest, funny and fascinating gentleman. And as fine a role model as any one could have wished for.”
I never got to meet the man, but there’s no doubt that in some ways he shaped me (and I suspect you too) as a lover of film, even if you don’t realize it directly. George Lucas is credited with the original Star Wars trilogy. But without McQuarrie’s imagination on the pre-production side of things, the Star Wars universe might’ve looked very very different. And likely would not have become the phenomenon it did; creating the likeness for many of the iconic characters we all know and love today, including Chewbacca, Darth Vader, C-3PO and many others. He also worked on E.T., Battlestar Galactica and won an Academy Award for his work on Coccoon.
McQuarrie died yesterday, in his Berkeley, California home. He was 82. You’ll be missed sir, but even by those who didn’t know you directly, I can honestly say you’ll never be forgotten. Every time we pop in that scratchy old VHS copy of The Empire Strikes Back, you’ll be thought of.
Just as a quality edition of The Devil’s was announced on DVD in the UK, controversial and unique filmmaker Ken Russell has passed on. The man still recently doing the festival circuit (stops in 2010 in Toronto and Montreal), before a gentle passing in his sleep at 84. The above image is from one of his most famous films, The Lair of the White Worm; a VHS box that haunted my dreams when I saw it in the store at a very tender age.