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by Jason Gargano 12.22.2010
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Wednesday Movie Roundup: Year in Film Edition

The year-end movie season is now in high gear, as media entities of every stripe unveil their top 10 lists and various awards groups reveal their nominations. CityBeat's film writers will present our lists next week. In the meantime, check out this week's Year in Film essays, which offer a look at 2010's noteworthy cinematic trends — from a roundup of “off-the-wall” DVDs and an examination of the further fracturing of movie reality and indie cinema to the year's best crime epics and the lack of strong movies by and for African Americans.

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by Jason Gargano 10.15.2010
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Friday Movie Roundup: Apathy Is Not an Option

Our movie-house winning streak continues, as this week delivers yet another collection of worthwhile options — from Davis Guggenheim's eye-opening documentary Waiting for Superman and Sam Taylor-Wood's John Lennon docudrama Nowhere Boy to the latest works from the irrepressible Jackass crew and the ceaselessly prolific Woody Allen. Even the right-wing “documentary” about the role government should play in our lives, I Want Your Money — which (not so) curiously didn't have an advanced press screening — looks intriguing/amusing if likely one-sided.

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by tt stern-enzi 04.05.2013
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Roger Ebert Will Live on When the Lights Dim

What can I say about a man I never met, but who had been part of my life for decades? I, seemingly like a whole generation of film fans, watched Siskel and Ebert back in the 1980s, and then graduated to reading his reviews in the Chicago Sun-Times during my college years. Every Friday morning, I made my sojourn to the Annenberg School of Communications  library and collected the Sun-Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Village Voice, and Variety so that I could prepare for the weekend’s new releases. I didn’t always go to the movies, but I wanted to know what the critics thought, which meant I wanted to know, first and foremost, what Ebert thought. I didn’t always agree with him – many times, in fact, I was flummoxed by his wrongheadedness – but reading his take was a necessary and very personal prequel to the filmgoing experience.

I’ve been a working critic now for almost 13 years, and for the last seven I’ve also taught film review and feature writing classes at the University of Cincinnati. I never imagined I would be working in the same field as Ebert, even while I was taking undergraduate level class that examined film as text. I simply loved movies. Always have and always will. I know that last part will be the case thanks to Ebert. His love of the movies evolved as the form and critical analysis experienced their own growing pains. He made us all critics, by opening up an exchange that now, thanks to the Internet, has a global forum. What has been most inspiring about his work and approach over the last decade is his willingness to embrace technology as a means of broadcasting that very singular voice of his, overflowing with knowledge, but also immediately accessible. His sense of the need for accessibility is the greatest and most lasting impact he will have on criticism. It is what can and should continue to guide the would-be critics to come – the next generation of bloggers, tweeters, and those adherents to whatever is to come.

More established critics and writers have stories about meeting Ebert, spending time in his presence, what have you. My remembrance of the man is different. I’m one of those Johnny-come-lately types who “knew” him from afar. I’ve attended the Toronto International Film Festival for the last four or five years, and I recall, my first Ebert-sighting, about three year back. He and his wife were ahead of me on the escalator at the downtown multiplex space that serves as the main screening hub. They were engaged with others, talking very likely about the upcoming screening or maybe he was thinking about the Twitter event he was scheduled to host. Whatever was the case, there he was, despite all those years of globetrotting and a dizzying collection of screenings, still so full of life and joy for the festival experience. I didn’t need to speak with him or even be near him. Just to know he was there, doing his thing, seeing movies, helping us to engage with them by any means necessary, was more than enough. I looked for him each year after that and was always glad when I spotted him. I’ll likely do the same thing this year and I won’t be surprised if my mind plays a little trick on me and I convince myself that I’ve seen him again, roaming about Toronto somewhere.

He’ll be there, somewhere in the dark, like always.

This story was originally published on tt stern-enzi's blog, here.

 
 
by Jason Gargano 01.12.2011
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DGA Announces Top Docs

The Directors Guild of American today announced its nominees for “Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentaries” for 2010: Lixin Fan's Last Train Home; Charles Ferguson's Inside Job; Alex Gibney's Client 9: The Rise and Fall of the Eliot Spitzer; Davis Guggenheim's Waiting for Superman; and Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger's Restrepo.

There's no denying that the Guild had a tough job in narrowing the field — it was another stellar year for the ever-evolving genre — but only two of the final five would have made my list: Inside Job (read my interview with Ferguson here) and Client 9, both of which appeared on my top 10 list of 2010 films.

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by Jason Gargano 03.11.2011
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Friday Movie Roundup: Kevin Smith Goes DIY

Writer/director Kevin Smith's self-financed Red State 13-town, movie tour hits Ohio on Monday with a stop a Clark State Performing Arts Center, which is about a 90-minute drive north of Cincinnati in Springfield. Described as “a horror/comedy/satire about a Westboro Baptist Church-esque fundamentalist community that murders those it finds abominations in God's eyes (aka gay people),” the film premiered to mixed reviews and a small group of protesters at the Sundance Film Festival Jan. 22.

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by Jason Gargano 08.20.2010
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Friday Movie Roundup: The Balcony Is Closed

The final episode of At the Movies aired last weekend, marking the end of an era that began more than 30 years ago.

Featuring a pair of geeky Chicago-based film critics — Roger Ebert from The Sun-Times and The Tribune's Gene Siskel — the long-running show debuted as Sneak Previews in 1975 before switching to At the Movies in 1977. The premise was simple: two people talking about that week's releases with passion, intelligence, wit and personality.

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by Jason Gargano 12.18.2009
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Friday Movie Roundup: Awards Season Mania

The movie awards season kicked into overdrive Dec. 15 with the announcement of the 67th annual Golden Globe Awards nominations. I’m typically the first one to criticize the Globes’ often banal, stars-and-studio-influenced nominations, but this year’s crop seems more discerning than usual.

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by Jason Gargano 07.30.2010
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Friday Movie Roundup: Searching for the Best of 2010 (So Far)

By now I typically unveil my favorite movies from the first half of the year. Yet looking back on the first six months of 2010, only two films —Lee Unkrich's Toy Story 3 and Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop —have discerned themselves as unqualified contenders to make my year-end list.

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by Jason Gargano 06.10.2011
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Friday Movie Roundup: Woody Allen Returns to Form

Who knew it would take a 75-year-old to make the best movie of the summer (so far)?

Woody Allen's 41st feature is his most engaging effort in years,a whimsical comedy that seamlessly melds moments of dreamy, nostalgic delight —its protagonist, played by Allen surrogate Owen Wilson, is somehow, each midnight, transported back to Paris' 1920s bohemian heyday where he hangs out with Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso and F. Scott Fitzgerald, among others — with the filmmaker's longstanding themes of acute self-loathing, romantic longing and the role of the artist in society.

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by Jason Gargano 04.14.2011
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Do Something Reel Film Festival

Just in time to align nicely with our annual Green Issue comes the Do Something Reel Film Festival, which is described as a “collection of six provocative, character-driven films focused on passionate people making a world of difference.” Presented by Whole Foods Market in conjunction with and in celebration of Earth Month, the traveling festival will hit more than 70 cities through April, including our own Esquire Theatre tomorrow through April 21.

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