Hard to put into words exactly how much this means to the film community in general. Suffice it to say, one of the great film critics, one of the kindest, most influential, most humane since the birth of cinema is going to be deeply, deeply missed.
Please share in the comments any thoughts or feelings or memories you may have about his writings, his musings, his blogs, his bantering with Siskel and/or Roeper.
Sound off, lovelies.
We're getting to know The Film Experience community with little spotlights on YOU the readers. Here's Zé from Portugal who you've talked to in the comments section as he's a regular.
What's your earliest movie memory?
Zé: The dinner scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, what with the beetle hors d'oeuvres and the "chilled monkey brains". I live for Kate Capshaw's histrionics in that scene and throughout the whole movie.
Your three favorite directors?
Zé: Roman Polanski, David Lynch and John Cassavetes
When did you start reading The Film Experience?
During the 2006 Oscar season. I had always been a huge movie and awards buff and in that year I was particularly outraged that Helen Mirren (who I nevertheless thought was wonderful in The Queen) was steamrolling what I thought was one of the best Lead Actress line-ups ever. So more than ever I started looking up "second opinions" on the matter and eventually ran into The Film Experience, where you had just awarded Meryl the gold medal for Prada. I loved the weekly charts for each category and the more I explored the more I came to appreciate such a witty, unpretentious and most of all passionate take on cinema, its history and the inevitably love/hate affair we have with The Academy Awards.
I've always loved the special care you give to actressing without ever disregarding other aspects of moviemaking. I do admit having a bit of nostalgia when I go dig for old posts. Speaking of which, the quartet with you, Joe, Katey and Nick on podcast is one of the msot delightful online experiences out there. I still crack up thinking about that mess of the 2008/2009 awards season and those back-to-back Globe/SAG podcasts, with Nick being pissed off at Salma Hayek for going all "there she is. my sister. my friend. it's an honour to be presenting this movie on which my soulmate's in" to everything Penelope Cruz-related and how Meryl reenacted the running through the woods scene in Mamma Mia! after beating Kate Winslet at the SAGs. The best!
Nick is too funny. Speaking of that moment... which 3 movies make you running screaming like Meryl, filled with crazy joy?
I have to go with both Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Can we count them as one? They're so different though... I watched both back to back when Sunset came out and I was like 16, and for a while I was in the narrow camp which preferred the whole naive and carefree vibe of Sunrise. As the years have gone by though it's been Sunset that keeps hitting home. I don't think I've seen any other movie where a feeling and the chemistry between the two leads remains so intact 9 years after the first was made. It's mesmerizing that they made that specific format work.
Same Time, Next Year used to be a (random) favorite of mine when I was a kid. I watched it like a gazillion times and again the uncomplicated nature with which those two characters so genuinely enjoyed each other's company really moved me. Ellen Burstyn was the first of my (many) actress crushes. I was 8 or 9 when I watched Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore for the first time, and that was probably the moment the Oscars really started meaning something to me as my mom told me she had won.
I can't not talk about Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. At first I found it extremely depressing even though I kept watching it. I thought that ending was so disencouraging, that yeah you just have to deal with the fact that you can't live without a relationship which is way past its expiration date. But now I have a brighter take on being dependable and that needing someone is can actually be a sweet thing.
I'm seeing a weird pattern in these three... so I'm going to say The Witches. "You may remove... YOUR VIGS!"
Michael C here. When you tune in to the movie chatter frequency one of unavoidable refrains you hear is that such and such sequel has spoiled a classic film. You know the drill. Part III forever tarnished The Godfather, turning a perfect two-part saga into a disappointing, lopsided trilogy. Oliver Stone ruined Gordon Gekko by dragging him out for a belated encore. “Blah blah Jim Carrey blah blah The Grinch blah blah blah MY CHILDHOOD!”
And so on.
This chorus was most recently heard lamenting the way Oz the Great and Powerful helped itself to a box office bonanza by trampling the sterling legacy of the Judy Garland classic. Next it will be Evil Dead’s turn to besmirch the memory of a cult classic. Amid all outraged accusations of violence towards film history shouldn’t we stop to consider if the basic idea has merit? Can an inferior sequel actually diminish the standing of a classic?
Let me state right up front my answer is a firm “No, it can’t.” Except when it can. Let me back up...
For this week's abbreviated edition of Hit Me With Your Best Shot I asked y'all to watch two short films with me (both available online if you click on the titles). Shorts sometimes function like auditions or training ground for feature directors but many artists, animators in particular, often stay with them exclusively. Certain feature auteurs return to them periodically for experimentation or creative rejuvenation or even, if they're music videos, cash. Short films are their own curious artform. Movie blogs should care more about them and this week's double feature, an ode to Short Film of the Week, is my own wee effort in stating so.
A short film also presents an ideal opportunity to acknowledge the original quite succinct concept of this series which was to choose a single image and discuss it. More often than not we end up with a screenshot party because a) it's too hard to stop at one and b) parties are fun.
DEATH TO THE TIN MAN
This short is from the filmmaking collective of Court 13 who rose to prominence last year with Beasts of the Southern Wild -- you'll see Dan Romer & Benh Zeitlin sharing the composing credit again in the credits. It's an absurdist fable loosely based on the Frank L Baum's "Tinman of Oz". I didn't quite know what to make of its stop and start sound design or its mix of influences (the not-quite emotionally detached narrator felt a bit Wes Anderson and isn't the cinematography Lynchian?). I think it goes off the rails quite a lot in multiple ways (politically, religiously, narratively) in the last few minutes. But despite my reservations I've watched it three times and I'm still stirred by its weird fusion of the tender & grotesque (or, more plainly, hard & soft such as in the image of the tinman holding flowers). That unholy marriage is organic to the story but also beautifully captured in images like a still life of body parts snatched from the morgue. My favorite shot, equal parts beautiful and disturbing, is the one wherein Jane lovingly paints eyes on to the reanimated corpse of human Bill before kissing him. It's troublesome on an anthropomorphic level. Tinman Bill is very much human but he needs anthropomorphism to be loved and Jane won't. Corpse Bill is less human but looks the part so she doesn't need to ascribe feeling, just eyeballs. Despite the strong light and shadow the shot feels warm but you know that this Bill must be ice cold to the touch; he's got no heart.
THE EAGLEMAN STAG
I chose this short primarily because I would give it an "A" full stop and wanted everyone to see it since Oscar weirdly refused to turn its immense spotlight on this hugely deserving accomplishment. Writer/director Mikey Please's (also known as Michael Please) short is a marvel of playfulness, creativity, technical prowess, thematic ambition, and arch wit and he packs it all into a dizzying rush of nine minutes of cinematic accelerated...fear of aging?
The entire world is defined by context. even the way we experience the passing of time - every second is smaller compared to the last."
The Eagleman Stag, more than many features we've watched for this series, presented a ridiculous challenge in that its greatest strengths come from its screenplay, production design and especially its editing -- the images in juxtaposition mean at least thrice as much as any of them do on their own. Frankly, Stag has worthy best shot choices -- the lighting of the stop motion structures is often astonishing -- at virtually any freeze frame many of them much more beautiful than the one I've chosen. But frankly I feel so small in this short's presence that I can only relate to the insignificant worm our narrator holds up to the sunlight when he's 4 years old "Fascinating!". I've watched this three times and know it will be just as rewarding at thirty. So I'll go with the worm in a way. The shot I've chosen is a blink and you miss it reference to that earlier shot when the narrator holds up... himself... for his own intellectual consideration.
Yes, this seems about right."
Click over for more on these two fascinating shorts
Encore Entertainment unpacks dense themes
Antagony & Ecstasy self inflicted failure and silent film riffs
Amiresque enigmatic beauty and sheer comic value
Okinawa Assault amalgams and vandalizations
The Film's The Thing unleashing imagination, moments that pulls us in
Allison Tooey didn't like the movies but plays along
We Recycle Movies watches from her iPhone while in line for... next week's movie!
Next week on Hit Me With Your Best Shot, we helicopter in to JURASSIC PARK (1993). Please join us whether that's in movie theaters for the 3D conversion or at home with your dvd or fossilized vhs tape. There's a lot of acreage on that island and there's room for plenty of room for anyone who wants to choose a "best" image and tell us why!