Saturday, October 27, 2007


We see so few movies these days that having a category for this topic might be overly optimistic.

But I still love them. Autumn is my favorite season, and added to that, the best time of year to be a movie-lover. Most Oscar contenders haven't opened yet; instead you have that wonderful sense of anticipation, in which the movies exist only in your mind and have yet to disappoint. It looks like a great year for movies, but then again it usually does in October.

0801ebertautosized258Adding to my delight, Roger Ebert is back to writing reviews. Alleluia. Growing up just outside Chicago in a movie-passionate family,  I considered Ebert and Siskel part of our mental landscape. Watching the show, I always preferred Siskel, but once I was old enough to read Ebert, there was no competition. I don't always agree with him, and I'm not usually reading him for a recommendation, though I get many. I read him for his writing. As a long time fan, I love when his review becomes less about the movie and just a great essay, as they often do. I love when he gives  a glimpse into his days in Champaign, IL, as he does once again in his recent review of Music Within. With any critic, you need to know their weaknesses, and we used to joke that you had to subtract at least one star from any Ebert review of a movie that was animated, featured the relationship between a young boy and a dog, or contained a lesbian love scene. 

My brother Kevin recently emailed asking, "Is Ebert only watching films that he knows are probably better than the rest of the lot or is he just passing out 3-star and 4-star ratings like candy?" Our ever-resourceful brother Martin found the answer, directly from Ebert himself toward the bottom of this page.

Other movie notes:

1. "Away From Her" got a strong review from Ebert. It's at the top of our netflix list because a friend recommended 3 indie pictures: "The Treatment", "Sweet Land" and this. The first two have already disappointed. Both are the kind of movie that you enjoy more on reflection rather than while watching them. They contain good scenes and an element of loveliness (especially Sweet Land) but neither work fully. Bad pacing, awkwardness. So I was going to boot Away from Her, but now it's got a second chance.

2. "Dan in Real Life" ---this looks like the kind of sweet, unchallenging movie that is needed at times. And despite how simple they seem, they must be awfully difficult to make because I can't think of the last time I saw one we liked. "The Family Stone" had that potential last year, but didn't quite succeed. There are so many bad ones ("Must Love Dogs") for every "When Harry Met Sally." And then there is the golden child, the romantic comedy that actually does make you think, ala "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." Dare I hope for one this year?

3. Casey Affleck in "Gone Baby Gone". I don't know if the movie will be any good. But I think Casey was the best thing in "The Last Kiss" and I'm just glad to hear he's in a starring role.

4. John Cusack in two potentially good movies this season: "The Martian Child" and "Df02298fGrace is Gone". I so badly want to see him do well, but really can't handle another "Serendipity."

5. I want to see "My Kid Could Paint That", "Bella", "Into the Wild", "Michael Clayton", "Juno," "Atonement," and the Russian version of "12 Angry Men."

6. So sad that "Margo at the Wedding" looks bad.

7. So annoyed to see "Golden Compass" is being touted as "anti-Catholic" by people who haven't read the book or seen the movie. Not my genre of choice, but it was one of those books I had to read because so many students begged me to...and it does contain satire of organized religions and zealots. And, yes, the author is a passionate atheist. Does that mean a person of faith shouldn't read him? Newsflash: a great deal of good AND evil has been done in the name of religions.

8. So disappointed that what I thought for all of 30 seconds was a new Cohen brothers' movie based on the Irish book No Country for Young Men is really an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men.

9. "I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With": Before I knew it was set in Chicago, before I knew it starred Bonnie Hunt and Amy Sedaris, I loved it for the title.

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