erik lundegaard

Movie Reviews posts

Wednesday September 03, 2014

A Personal Journey Through Martin Scorsese's Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert

It was fun comparing and contrasting Siskel and Ebert's top 10 love for Woody Allen recently, so I thought I'd try it with other directors. 

One of the most startling revelations in the documentary “Life Itself,” about the life and times and films of Roger Ebert, comes from Martin Scorsese. He admits he was depressed in the 1980s, but we all knew that. He also admits he was suicidal, and what helped bring him back from the edge was an award he won at the Toronto Film Festival, instigated by Siskel and Ebert. He basically says they helped save his life. Pretty cool. Then they panned “The Color of Money,” which is even cooler.

That said, how much top 10 love did Marty get from S&E? 

A lot. Here's a list of all of Marty's movies from 1973 to 1999, when Gene died.

Scorsese's Movies Siskel  Ebert
Mean Streets (1973) #5 #8
Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974)   #3
Taxi Driver (1976) #7 #2
New York, New York (1977)    
The Last Waltz (1978)    
Raging Bull (1980) #1 #2
The King of Comedy (1982)    
After Hours (1985)   #2
The Color of Money (1986)    
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) #1  
Goodfellas (1990) #1 #1
Cape Fear (1991)    
The Age of Innocence (1993) #7 #2
Casino (1995)   #5
Kundun (1997)    

He got more love from Roger (8-6) but ... a higher degree of it from Gene? In an 11-year period, 1980 to 1990, Scorsese directed Siskel's #1 movie of the year three times. He also directed one of Siskel's top 10 movies of the 1970s (“Mean Streets”) and his top movie of the 1980s (“Raging Bull”). “Goodfellas” probably wouldn't have been Gene's top film of the 1990s, not with “Fargo” and “Hoop Dreams” around, but it would've made the cut. Third or fourth, I'd guess.

Interesting that Roger has “Alice” in there at #3 for 1974, then “Age of Innocence” at #2 in 1993. These are the more womencentric Scorsese flicks, which tend to get dismissed. Certainly not rewatched. Maybe I should rewatch them.

I also like their big, mid-1980s Scorsese battle. Roger chose “After Hours” as his #2 movie of 1985 while it didn't make Gene's list; Gene chose “Last Temptation” as his #1 movie of 1988 while it didn't make Roger's list. I think the former has the bigger cult following, but “Last Temptation” got lost amid all the fundamentalist handwringing. Another movie worth revisiting. 

Which of Marty's movies would have made my top 10 list? I don't know. All I know is the greatest double feature I've ever seen happened at the Neptune Theater in 1992, when I saw—both for the first time—“Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas.” Doesn't get much better than that.

Raging Bull

They didn't agree in 1980, when it was Gene's #1 and Roger's #2 movie of the year, but by 1990 they both agreed “Raging Bull” was the #1 movie of the decade.

Posted at 12:21 PM on Sep 03, 2014 in category Movie Reviews
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Thursday August 21, 2014

'A Parody of a Parody of a Simple-Dick Noir Cartoon'

“I lasted about 45 minutes with Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller‘s 'Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.' Not to sound pervy but I waited for Eva Green‘s nude scenes. Honestly? They were pretty damn good. That’s what this film is selling, right? Hard-boiled hard-ons. The first 'Sin City' (’05) was a simple-dick noir cartoon crammed with gruff machismo and brazenly sexual temptresses. 'Sin City: A Dame to Kill' For is a parody of a parody of a simple-dick noir cartoon ...”

-- Jeffrey Wells, “Candified Bird-Turd Noir,” on his Hollywood Elsewhere site. My review of the first “Sin City” here.

sexy Sin City posters

Green, Dawson, Alba: dames worth insulting your intelligence over?

Posted at 12:31 PM on Aug 21, 2014 in category Movie Reviews
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Did Siskel and Ebert Agree More the Longer They Worked Together?

One of the kicks I got out of the documentary “Life Itself,” about the life and times of film critic Roger Ebert, was watching Ebert and his TV partner/nemesis Gene Siskel battle over movies like Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” (which Roger loved and Gene dismissed for its last, rambling 30 minutes) and Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” (which Roger dismissed and Gene loved). These guys fought about Vietnam war movies the way the rest of the country fought about the Vietnam War.

All of which revived a thought I had as their various shows (“Sneak Previews,” etc.) wound their way through the years: Did Roger and Gene tend to agree more the longer they worked together? It seemed so to me, anecdotally; but unless someone counted the thumbs ups/downs, we’d never really know.

Let me say right off: I’m not about to count the thumbs up/downs for 24 seasons of “Sneak Previews,” etc. No way. But I did compare and contrast Siskel and Ebert’s annual top 10 lists to see how they stacked up there. Here are their number of top-10 agreements over the years: 

Year 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1975  x  x  x        
1976  x  x  x  x      
1977  x  x  x  x      
1978  x  x  x  x      
1979  x  x  x  x  x  x  x
1980  x  x  x  x  x  x  x
1981  x  x  x  x      
1982  x  x  x  x  x  x  
1983  x  x  x  x  x  x  
1984  x  x  x  x  x    
1985  x  x  x  x  x    
1986  x  x  x  x  x    
1987  x  x  x  x  x  x  
1988  x  x  x        
1989  x  x  x  x  x  x  
1990  x  x  x        
1991  x  x  x  x      
1992  x  x  x  x  x  x  x
1993  x x  x  x  x  
1994  x  x  x  x      
1995  x  x  x  x  x  x  
1996  x  x  x  x  x  x  
1997  x  x  x  x      
1998  x  x  x  x      

For a while there, as I was tabulating, it seemed like I was onto something. They start out with only three agreements in 1975 but within a few years they’re together on 7 of the 10. But then it slips. And rises? And slips. And then back to three? But back up again. And we wind up with something fairly inconclusive.

Siskel and Ebert did seem to agree on the No. 1 movie of the year the longer they were together:

Year The Same No. 1 Movie
1975 Nashville
1983 * The Right Stuff
1989 Do the Right Thing
1990 Goodfellas
1993 Schindler's List
1994 Hoop Dreams
1996 Fargo

* 1983 may have been their most agreeable year, since they were exact not only one No. 1, but No. 2 (“Terms of Endearment”), No. 4 (“Fanny and Alexander”), No. 7 (“Silkwood”) and No. 9 (“Risky Business”). 

Their agreements are even starker with the best-of-the-decade lists. They agreed on only one movie as the best of the 1970s:

The Decade (1970s) **  
GENE SISKEL ROGER EBERT
Last Tango in Paris An Unmarried Woman
The Sorrow and the Pity Apocalypse Now
Annie Hall Amarcord
The Emigrants & The New Land Breaking Away ***
The Godfather I & II Nashville
The Conversation Days of Heaven
Mean Streets The Deer Hunter
The Last Detail Heart of Glass
Saturday Night Fever Cries and Whispers
Le Boucher The Godfather I & II

** Not in order of preference; simply in order presented.

*** Yes, I was tickled that this made Roger's cut.

But they agreed on four films in the 1980s:

The Decade (1980s)  
GENE SISKEL ROGER EBERT
1. Raging Bull 1. Raging Bull
2. Shoah 2. The Right Stuff
3. The Right Stuff 3. E.T.
4. My Dinner with Andre 4. Do The Right Thing
5. Who Framed Roger Rabbit 5. My Dinner with Andre
6. Do The Right Thing 6. Raiders of the Lost Ark
7. Once Upon A Time In America (long version) 7. Ran
8. Moonlighting 8. Mississippi Burning
9. Sid and Nancy 9. Platoon
10. Kagemusha 10. House of Games 

One could argue, of course, that since there were so many great movies in the 1970s, it was easier to disagree. I’ll take “The Conversation” and you take “Apocalypse Now”; you get “Days of Heaven” and I get “Mean Streets.” There were fewer such options in the 1980s. If not “Raging Bull,” what? “One from the Heart”? “The Return of the Jedi”? “Three Men and a Baby”?

(Sidenote: While “Raging Bull” is Roger’s best of the 1980s, it wasn’t even his best of 1980. He gave that one to “Black Stallion,” which, of course, didn’t make his decades-end list. Some movies just work on us better.)

But all in all, I wasn't noticing statistically what I'd noticed anecdotally.

Then I realized that I was only documenting their time together. What about the years when they were both reviewing movies in Chicago but weren't doing the show yet? What story would that tell?

This is the story it tells:

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1969  x  x        
1970  x  x  x  x  x  x  x
1971  x  x  x  x  x  x  
1972  x  x  x  x  x    
1973  x  x  x  x  x  x  
1974  x  x  x  x  x  x  x

In terms of top 10s anyway, they actually agreed more before they got together. From 1969 to 1974, they averaged 5.66 top-10 agreements. From 1975 to 1998? Only 4.95.

So I actually kind of proved the opposite of what I wanted to prove. I guess that’s why we crunch the numbers.

But we won’t know for certain if Siskel and Ebert agreed more, less, or about the same as the show progressed, until someone does a show-by-show, year-by-year analysis. Someone, I should add, with a lot more time on their hands than me.

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert

Siskel and Ebert: One liked “Apocalypse Now,” the other “Full Metal Jacket.”

Posted at 05:33 AM on Aug 21, 2014 in category Movie Reviews
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Thursday May 29, 2014

A.O. Scott Doesn't Like Adam Sandler

“Most of 'Blended' has the look and pacing of a three-camera sitcom filmed by a bunch of eighth graders and conceived by their less bright classmates. Shots don’t match. Jokes misfire. Gags that are visible from a mile away fail to deliver. Two rhinos are seen copulating by the side of a swimming pool, and someone has the wit to say, 'That’s not something you see in New Jersey.' Not funny on so many levels.

”There are comedians who mine their own insecurities for material. Mr. Sandler, in his recent films, compensates for his by building monuments to his own ego. In 'Blended,' he once again proclaims himself both über-doofus and ultimate mensch, disguising his tireless bullying in childish voices and the ironclad alibis of fatherhood and grief.“

--A.O. Scott in his review of Adam Sandler's ”Blended," in The New York Times, May 22, 2014.

Adam Sandler, Blended

Not funny on so many levels.

Posted at 02:01 PM on May 29, 2014 in category Movie Reviews
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Sunday December 01, 2013

The Worst Movie Review of the Year, Part II

I'm sorry but I couldn't leave this one alone.

There are so many distortions in Kyle Smith's New York Post review of the film “Philomena” that it's hard to deal with them all. It's also difficult to extract the half-truth from the half-lies he's formed around them. But this one is easy.

Near the end of his review he writes:

Philomena spends the movie saying dumb stuff (at the Lincoln Memorial: “Look at him up there in his big chair!”), Martin is rude and dismissive, and we’re meant to laugh, I guess, at her being a rube and his being a journalist. You may be wondering why Coogan felt the need to play a cold and unpleasant a figure who isn’t (like many other Coogan creations) funny, but the answer is simple: Coogan hates journalists.

Here:

  1. Coogan is very funny in the movie, and identifiable. I certainly identified.
  2. Coogan, I imagine, hates bad journalism, particularly tabloid journalism, particularly the awful tabloid journalism revealed in the phone-hacking scandal that sunk News of the World in July 2011. His own phone was hacked, his own private life revealed to sell newspapers, and he's become a strong voice against the practice. He's testified before the Leveson inquiry into unethical journalism and has written Op-Eds for The Guardian about same. 
  3. The man at the head of the phone-hacking scandal, still unaccountable after all these years, is Rupert Murdoch.
  4. Rupert Murdoch owns The New York Post, for which Kyle Smith writes his reviews.

Isn't that nice? Look again at the deft, shoddy way Smith raises the phone-hacking scandal without mentioning the phone-hacking scandal. Which, of course, would point back to his boss.

Bloody awful, really.

Philomena, starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan

Posted at 10:06 AM on Dec 01, 2013 in category Movie Reviews
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