Tribute to Siskel and Ebert
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Verdict: See It!     
David's Review

This movie was frightening and funny the day is came out and it holds up beautifully today. Released at the height of the cold war, and just a short time after the Cuban Missile crisis, it reflects the intense fear and madness of mutually assured destruction (MAD) through a nuclear holocaust, but also allowed us to laugh out loud (nervously) at the ridiculousness of it all. The movie feels just as brilliant today as the day it was released almost 50 years ago. Kubrick was taken to task by the studio execs for wanting to shoot it in Black and White - all the statistics shows that movie goers wanted movies in color. But he stood his ground and the movie has such a stronger impact in black and white - mostly because the themes of this movie appear to be black and white - but really aren't.
An amazing ensemble cast headed up by the genius of Peter Sellers playing the president, a sheepish British Captain trying his best to stop a nuclear holocaust, and of course, the very unusual Dr. Strangelove. And George C. Scott warms up for his Oscar winning role in Patton as General Turgidson. Who do I love the most? Slim PIckens of course. An American original if there ever was one that goes "toe-to-toe with the rooskies" as he rides the nuclear missile in like a real American cowboy would.Nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor (Sellers), My Fair Lady swept the Oscars. Pickens was offered the role of Major T.J. "King" Kong after Sellers could not master a Texas accent.

I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to this movie - I had no desire to see a movie about a boxer. But this movie about a flawed man who channels his flaws into greatness and into failure is a stunning revelation that resonates with us all. The boxing scenes were closer to watching a ballet than a boxing match - until the punches landed - then it became almost unbearably visceral - like I was getting hit. I read a number of articles from Scorsese on this very subject and that's exactly what he was going for.
De Niro at his finest. Period. The scene near the end of the movie where a fat, bloated and dejected Jake is trying to salvage what is left of his life just broke my heart. Martin Scorsese being denied the best director Oscar in favor of Robert Redford for Ordinary People was one of the great injustices in the history of the academy. Robert deserved it. Martin deserved it more. Not just for great direction but the great choreography. Nominated for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Best Supporting Actor (Joe Pesci) and Supporting Actress (Cathy Moriarty). Except for De Niro's win, Ordinary People swept the Oscars.During the gym sparring sequence, you can hear an "Oof" from Joe Pesci [playing Joey, La Motta's brother]. That reaction is real, as De Niro broke his rib.


Sean's Review
Roger Ebert was an inspiration to all of us. The internet has been flooded with eulogies, appropriately so, so now perhaps the best way to honor Ebert, and his colleague Gene Siskel, who passed away in 1999, is talk about their selections for the greatest films of all time. I decided that, just because, I would look at the combination of the two lists and go with the earliest film available, and the most recent film available.

The earliest, Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman's The General, actually made the list of both critics. Roger didn't rank, but it was #4 on Gene's. Made late in the silent age in 1926 and considered a crowning achievement of the time, it originally opened to poor reviews and disappointing box office, but Keaton thought of it as his best movie, and Orson Welles at one point even claimed it the greatest of all films. The General is a great showcase for Buster Keaton's comedic abilities and his extraordinary feats as a stuntman. In 1989, the first year it was enacted, The General was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Selected for his 2012 submission to the Sight and Sound critics' poll, Roger Ebert took a chance by selecting a very recent film, Terrence Malick's 2011 The Tree of Life, to his selection of the greatest films of all time, which of course Ebert would dismiss such lists, as it can be nearly impossible to rank multiple masterpieces up against each other. Ebert was not alone, however, as fifteen other critics selected the film for Sight and Sound as well, with Ebert saying he wanted to specifically draw attention to the film by selecting it. I think it's a bold choice, but I believe it foreshadows a very possible future - The Tree of Life has the best chance of all the films released in the last decade of being heralded as a masterpiece years from now. I, like Ebert would have done, looked at these two movies for arbitrary reasons. All of his and Gene's selections are well worth taking a look at, as our so many gifts of cinema, that Gene and Roger was very satisfied to review.


Leah's Review
Siskel and Ebert were trailblazers in popular film criticism. Even though critics have long existed and we've had some high profile cultural observers and scholars alike (i.e., Bosley Crowther Pauline Kael, and Andrew Sarris), Siskel and Ebert made movie criticism accessible for the masses. Additionally, and perhaps more significant, Siskel and Ebert made film culturally 'important' and demonstrated ways in which everyday folk could think critically about film.

For Gene Siskel, Claude Lanzmann's 1985 Shoah was not only "among the greatest films ever made...[but] more pertinent is that...Shoah is the greatest use of film in motion picture history, taking movies to their highest moral value." Non-traditional and atypical in style for a documentary yet incredibly simplistic, this 9 hour film of mostly interviews intensely compelling, largely due to Lanzmann's unrelenting style as interlocutor and participant - he is plaintively in his subjects' faces, persistent being without abrasive, coaxing them to relive and recount their participation as either oppressed or oppressor. We understand the power of the camera in Shoah as it provides no quarter, no escape from its subjects. Every gesture, nuance, utterance becomes intensified, magnified and imbued with deeper meaning with Lanzmann's close ups and long takes. Curious because of its lack of file/archival footage and controversial because of Lanzmann's questionable filmmaking ethics - use of hidden camera capture images of aged Nazis who were promised anonymity - the film's chief evidence is in its persuasive ability to capture the stories of those who would bear witness to one of the 20th century's greatest human atrocities. Lanzmann's Shoah is a defining moment in documentary filmmaking as well as in documenting history. Many have theorized about the great liberatory and democratizing power of cinema (beyond its ability to entertain as spectacle) - Shoah sets a bar for what film can achieve as an artifact of culture and society.

For Roger Ebert, writing in 2003, Tokyo Story was: "...about our families, our natures, our flaws and our clumsy search for love and meaning. It isn't that our lives keep us too busy for our families. It's that we have arranged them to protect us from having to deal with big questions of love, work and death." Deceptively simplistic in its story telling, Tokyo Story packs a powerful punch in its restraint of what roils below the surface of not only its main characters the old couple Shukishi and Tomi Hirayama (Chishu Ryu and Chieko Higashiyama, respectively) who travel from their provincial home to Tokyo to visit their adult children and grandchildren whom they have never met, and their eventual return home. Set eight years after the end of WWII, Tokyo Story has as its main tension generational divides, made larger by the struggle between modernity and tradition, played out between children who have no time for their parents, and parents disappointed in how their kids have turned out as adults. While we feel that there is a definite Japaneseness going on here, much of what we see is universal. Perhaps, as Ebert points out, it is the inherent drama that is family, specifically, how our parents remind us of our own mortality that keeps us at arms length: this is tragedy. Yasujiro Ozu's distinctive, minimalist cinematic style - low "pillow shots", stationary cameras, frames within frames, "geometric" use of space, naturalistic performances - stages his drama with a theatricality that is full of dynamism. What is not said, and what is not shown become looming, oppressive forces bearing down on what ever Ozu has at center frame, creating a sustained tension throughout the film's 2hr16 minute running time. Tokyo Story, visually stunning and profound, is in a word, classic.