Cannes #1: Up, up and away, in my beautiful, my beautiful balloon

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As I have so often said, if Cannes ever opens its festival with a 3D animated feature, I'll believe houses can fly. I am a doubter no longer. Cannes 2009 awarded the honor of its opening night, which traditionally goes to a French film, to Pixar's 3D "Up." I would have given anything to be there for the morning press screening, to witness the world's movie critics, festival programmers, cineastes and academics fitting on their XpanD® Series 101 3D Active Glasses, which are, quote, "a stylish, eco-friendly, and completely immersive stereoscopic 3D experience."

Alas, I was not at that screening. Our flight arrival was a day later. But I have had the great pleasure of seeing "Up" in 2D, which is how most people will see it. Faithful readers will know that I don't at all miss seeing the 3D version. All I really miss is seeing the Cannes crowd put on the glasses. At the black tie evening screening, all the top design houses in Paris will have their hand-made gowns and formalwear complemented by the stylish and eco-friendly XpanD® eyewear.

My official review is scheduled to run when the movie opens in late May, but there will be hundreds online and in print from Cannes, so I see no harm in making some unofficial observations. Such as, this is a wonderful film. It tells a story.The characters are as believable as any characters can be who spend much of their time floating above the rain forests of Venezuela. They have tempers, problems, and obsessions. They are cute and goofy, but they aren't cute in the treacly way of little cartoon animals. They're cute in the human way of the animation master Hayao Miyazaki.

That means they're earnest and plucky, and one of them is an outright villain--snaky, treacherous and probably mad. Two of the three central characters are cranky old men, which is a wonder in this era when the captain of the Starship Enterprise must be three years out of school, lest fans be asked to identify with a veteran officer. "Up" doesn't think all heroes must be young or sweet, although the third important character is a nervy kid.

The movie was directed by Pete Docter, who also directed "Monsters, Inc.," wrote "Toy Story," and was the co-writer and first director on "WALL-E" before leaving to devote full time to this project. So he's one of the leading artists of this renaissance of animation, which has limitless possibilities if it is not derailed by Hollywood's mass corporate delusion about 3D.


No, this will not be an entry about 3D. It's about "Up." But let me gently mention one of the film's qualities that is likely to be diminished by 3D: Its subtle and beautiful color palette. "Up," like "Finding Nemo," "Toy Story," "Shrek" and "The Lion King," uses colors in a way particularly suited to its content. It may be that the wonderful new glasses are unlike all other 3D glasses and are perfectly transparent, but given their purpose, how can they be? Unlike the tinted glasses used for most 3D glasses, which cost a dollar or less, these babies use lenses that flicker open and closed at the shutter rate of the projector. They cost around $25, and have to be recycled. Don't look for them in your local theater anytime real soon.

I'll have to see "Up"in 3D to experience their effectiveness. I'm afraid the brightness and delicate shadings of the color palate will become slightly dingy, slightly flattened out, like looking through a window that needs Windex. With standard 3D movies, take off the glasses and see how much brighter the "real" screen is. I predict the Cannes screening will look better than almost every U.S. screening.

There is also the annoyance of 3D itself. It is a marketing gimmick designed (1) to justify higher ticket prices, and (2) make piracy harder. Yet as most of the world will continue to use 2D, pirated prints will remain a reality. The effect of 3D adds nothing to the viewing experience, and I have never once heard an audience member complain that a movie is not in 3D. Kids say they "like" it, but kids are inclined to say they "like" anything that is animated and that they get to see in a movie theater. It is the responsibility of parents to explain this useful truth: If it ain't broke. don't fix it. Every single frame of a 3D movie gives you something to look at that is not necessary.


Now, then. Back to the "true" film, the 2D version of "Up." Find a theater showing it, save yourself some money, and have a terrific visual experience. This is a story as tickling to the imagination as the magical animated films of my childhood, when I naively thought that because their colors were brighter, their character outlines more defined and their plots simpler, they were actually more realistic than regular films.

"Up" begins with a romance as sweet and lovely as any I can recall in feature animation. Two children named Carl and Ellie meet and discover they share the same dream of someday being daring explorers. In newsreels, they see the exploits of a daring adventurer named Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer), who uses his gigantic airship to explore a lost world on a plateau in Venezuela and bring back the bones of fantastic creatures previously unknown to man. When his discoveries were accused of being faked, he flies off enraged to South America again, vowing to bring back living creatures to prove his claims.

Nothing is heard from him for years. Ellie and Carl (Edward Asner) grow up, have a courtship, marry, buy a ramshackle house and turn it into their dream home, are happy together, and grow old. This process is silent except for music (Ellie doesn't even have a voice credit). It's shown by Docter in a lovely sequence, without dialogue, that deals with the life experience in a way that is almost never found in family animation. The lovebirds save their loose change in a gallon jug intended to finance their trip to the legendary Paradise Falls, but real life gets in the way: Flat tires, home repairs, medical bills. Then they make a heartbreaking discovery. This interlude is poetic and touching.


The focus of the film is on Carl's life after Ellie. He becomes a recluse, holds out against the world, keeps his home as a memorial, talks to the absent Ellie. One day he decides to pack up and fly away--literally. Having worked all his life as a balloon man, he has the equipment on hand to suspend the house from countless helium-filled balloons and fulfill his dream of seeking Paradise Falls. What he wasn't counting on was an inadvertent stowaway--Russell (Jordan Nagai), a dutiful Wilderness Explorer Scout, who looks Asian-American to me.

What they find at Paradise Falls and what happens there I will not say. But I will describe Charles Muntz's gigantic airship that is hovering there. It's a triumph of design, and perhaps owes its inspiration, though not its appearance, to Miyazaki's "Castle in the Sky." The exterior is nothing special: a really big zeppelin. But the interior, now, is one of those movie spaces you have the feeling you'll remember.

With vast inside spaces, the airship is outfitted like a great ocean liner from the golden age, with a stately dining room, long corridors, a display space rivaling the Natural History Museum, attics spacious enough to harbor fighter planes. Muntz, who must be a centenarian by now, is hale, hearty and mean, his solitary life shared only by robotic dogs.


The adventures on the jungle plateau are satisfying in a Mummy/Tomb Raider/Indiana Jones sort of way. But they aren't the whole point of the film. This isn't a movie like "Monsters vs. Aliens," that's mostly just frenetic action. There are stakes here, and personalities involved, and two old men battling for meaning in their lives. And a kid who, for once, isn't smarter than all the adults. And a loyal dog. And an animal sidekick. And always that house and its balloons.

I haven't spoken to Pete Docter since we met on a Disney cruise ship, where he was maybe getting inspiration for the airship interior. I know some things about his work. He likes for his films to contain some sorts of life lessons. Like Walt Disney, he doesn't mind if sometimes they're scary. In WALL-E, he incorporated a pointed critique of consumer excess. In "Up," his whole film is an oblique rebuke to those who think action heroes have to be young.

Is this a daring choice for the opening night at Cannes? Not if you've seen it. Is it a significant choice? Yes, conferring the festival's august prestige upon animation. Will it be a great experience for the 2,246 members of the audience? Yes, except for that damned 3D.

The 2:26 trailer for "Up."

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I am one of those faithful readers, and as such I am aware of your apathy toward even recent 3D technology. Speaking for myself, however, I find that 3D is a medium waiting for its Wizard of Oz, and then many will be convinced like myself. (My first thought coming out of Beowulf 3D was regret that The Lord of the Rings trilogy wasn't filmed in 3D -- read my thoughts here.) I suspect that James Cameron's Avatar has a high probability of being such a film, but we shall see.

Up sounds promising, but it looks like it still has that "Pixar tone" that, despite their high-quality nature of their films, sometimes rubs me the wrong way.

I had the pleasure of watching a restored print of The Lost World (1925) the other day on the big screen at the SF Int'l Film Festival, with an original score performed live by the band Dengue Fever.

I saw the Up trailer again a few days later, and I noticed something.... Take a look at the plateau with a gap at the 1'13" mark of the YouTube trailer above. Now take a look at the plateau with a gap from the third (yellow) still on this review page:

That plateau and gap played a prominent role in the Lost World.. and now that you mention them going to a lost world in Venezuela (where the earlier film was also set), there's no mistaking the homage! :)

I highly recommend that everyone try to check out the restored 100 minute print of The Lost World (as compared to the previously available 60 minute print). It's delightful (well, with the exception of a minor character in blackface speaking in racistly-written language... but he only plays a small part). I especially love how they hand-tinted the frames for different situations.. blue at night, red by the campfire, green in the forest, etc.

Ebert: You have a good cinematic memory and are no doubt correct, because you know they screened that film. I remember as a child staying up late at night, my eyes glued to the pages of the Arthur Conan Doyle novel.

I'm so glad there's at least one serious critic not slobbering all over this 3D nonsense. This stereoscopic trend is distracting to the point that I find the effect discourages my eyes from exploring the screen rather than simply settling on the focal point.

I'm dying to see Up though. I'm jealous of everyone who has already had the experience.


I have read your posts for a short time now, along with the many comments they attract. I fear I could not compete with the insights that many of your followers share, so I will simply say that perhaps more than the topics that you choose and the wisdom that you lend them, I enjoy most of all your writing style. I truly enjoy your turn of phrase and must admit to secretly collecting the odd phrase in the hope that a situation might arise in which I could 'borrow' it.

Thank you, it has been most enjoyable thus far.

Roger, I've seen Laputa: Castle in the Sky many, many times, and I have never grown tired of it. It is actually one of Miyazaki's works that I love best. But then again, there is nothing in Miyazaki's works that anyone can hate. I share this sentiment with the rest of the population in this small island nation of ours.

I have to say, the first thing that came to mind when I saw the trailer for "Up" was that it was most probably inspired from The Twenty-One Balloons, a juvenile novel by William Pène du Bois. The plot involved a San Francisco explorer who chanced upon an uncharted island in the Pacific. It had these mines of huge diamonds, and twenty quite-dotty families who were guarding the island's treasure. I have this Newbery Medal book sitting on my shelf, the pages now turned musty and brown with age.

Ah, I had pleasant memories of reading that book, along with Tom Sawyer.

I can't wait to see this film. After seeing the masterpiece that is WALL-E I can't wait to see what they've done next. I also love that they like to take risks and push the limits of storytelling. I compare them (Disney-Pixar) to the Coen Brothers: they tell the story THEY want to tell, not what people necessarily want to see.

A 4-star Pixar film that wins the Best Animated Film Oscar? Predictable. Call me when they make a bad movie.

Hi Roger-
Normally I agree with most everything you say, but I part ways with you in your opinion of the new 3-D technology. I've watched about 5 or 6 recent offerings from "Journey to the Center of the Earth" to the more recent "Monsters vs Aliens". As a certified stereo fanatic from the 50s Realist format to more recent formats (including the Real 3-D currently in theater use), the technology is a giant leap from the headache-inducing analglyph (red-blue) glasses used in the past.

Yes, the polarizing filters do absorb some light, but I've never been put off by a "dingy" image, or "muted" colors. And I have taken off the glasses during the show - yes, the unfused images are brighter, brighter, in fact, than a normal 2-D screening, so perhaps the issue you have is local to your screening and projector settings.

We live in a 3-D world, so why not take advantage of the technology to better enjoy the cinematic experience? I'm sorry to disagree, but the recent products are easily worth the extra $2 over a $5 first-show Matinee (Tucson prices) for me to be part of the show...


Ebert: I made it a point to view "Journey" on 2D DVD. It looked a lot better. The 3D screenigs I've sen have been state of the art.

It is just me, or does seeing a film in 3-D actually seem to make the film-going experience smaller. Let me see if I can explain what I mean. For me, instead of opening the film up, the 3-D experience seems to shrink the scale of whatever it is I am watching. It doesn't matter how big the screen is. I have seen 3-D films in the IMAX format and after a while I feel as though I am watching the film on a screen the size of a small monitor placed inches from my face. Perhaps by pulling me inside the 3-D world, my focus becomes so narrowed by the process, that I am experiencing a kind of a tunnel vision. I lose all sense of scale, which, for my money, is one of the main reasons I go to the movies--to be lost and carried away by the expansiveness of the image on the screen. Instead of being larger than life, the image seems reduced to a small, quite puny, imitation of life on the screen. Maybe others have experienced or can explain what I mean more effectively, or maybe it is just me.

I agree with you, Aaron. It is Pixar's audacity impresses me the most.

Oh, and "SQUIRREL!" Divine.

For anyone who loves either the book or silent film adaptation of The Lost World, I heartily recommend Greg Bear's delightful novel Dinosaur Summer. For that matter, I recommend it to anyone who especially loves both dinosaurs and movies.

I'm counting the days until Miyazaki's Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea gets its North American premiere. There's precious little being released this summer which genuinely piques my interest.

I also caught an early screening of Up and found it amazing. It's surprisingly really emotional and I cried and choked up a good three times. It was also much more "laugh-out-loud" funny in the middle then I thought it would be. I hope Roger can delve into the film a bit more in his review with the themes and symbolism that seem to be everywhere in it. I think there is a lot to mine and talk about in this one...including one rather large thing I thought about afterward....hmm, don't want to give anything away, so I'll just wait for what Roger has to say about what happens to Carl at the beginning of the movie between when the cop drops him off and then the retirement home guys come to the door in the morning. I think there's something rather interesting that happens there.

"There is also the annoyance of 3D itself. It is a marketing gimmick designed (1) to justify higher ticket prices, and (2) make piracy harder. Yet as most of the world will continue to use 2D, pirated prints will remain a reality. The effect of 3D adds nothing to the viewing experience, and I have never once heard an audience member complain that a movie is not in 3D"

Roger, don't you think the same things could have been (and probably was) said about sound? And color? Isn't 3D just another tool in a filmmaker's arsenal, that can be used well or not-so-well?

I find that your outright dismissal of any possibility of 3D emerging as an artistic tool, just as puzzling as your dismissal of any possibility of computer games being a possible art form.

"Call me when they make a bad movie."

I left you a voice mail in 2006.

I kid, I kid.

In any case, I've hated 3D ever since Captain EO at Disneyland and all of its 3D theme park successors. It never looks good and is always gimmicky, only this gimmick has lasted a few decades. I wish 3D would die already.

I was worried this may be Pixar's flop, but this blog lifted my spirits. Actually, it kinda slapped me and said "You moron, Pixar knows what they're doing!"

Oh, Roger, you don't know how this review breaks my heart. I'm currently attending school in Japan, where they don't screen the yearly Pixar release until December. I come home to the States in September. Surely Up will be out of multiplexes by that time; or, at best, relegated to the third-run theater with the postage stamp screen and half-broken sound system. What should I do? I just can't imagine that a DVD version could compare.

Having watch such films as Superman Returns and Bolt I noticed that my eyeglasses were always a problem. My glasses and the 3D glasses never fit comfortably on my head, and for the most part of the viewing I am constantly fixing my eye ware. Have you ever watched a 3D film with contacts?

I've yet to be won over by the concept of 3-D as the next standard of cinema (and doubt very much, if only for the costs involved, that it will ever catch on fully), but I have to admit I'm still looking forward to the experience of watching "Avatar" in 3-D. Every person that has seen footage from the film, including Steven Soderbergh, seems convinced it will "change everything." The fact that we're half a year from its release with zero promotional material has only piqued my interest even more. (That, plus the fact that it's the most expensive film ever made, with a reported budget of $350 million and upwards -- that's just crazy. Just to pass breaking even, it will need to surpass a large number of the highest grossing films of all time.)

As for "Up," well, at this point it's almost impossible for me to lose faith in Pixar. I was one of few people who didn't love "The Incredibles" and yet it was still better than most animated movies. "WALL-E" was incredible. More than "Up," however, I'm looking forward to "Toy Story 3" -- the original Toy Story is the first film I remember seeing in theaters as a kid, and it's one of few films I loved as a child that still holds up just as well (albeit for fairly different reasons) today. Pixar movies work on so many levels, which is one of my favourite aspects. I don't know how they do it, but actually investing time and faith into their stories and characters might be a start. I'm pretty sure it was John Lasseter who saw a copy of Disney's "Tinkerbell" last year and literally forced the division of the company handling the film to re-do the entire project (which included replacing Brittany Murphy's voice talents with those of another actress). His reason for doing this is because he felt the movie wasn't deserving of its affiliation with the original Disney film, and I just found that notion of honor and respect for audiences to be unique in today's age when they're putting out sequels or remakes or prequels to any franchise that has shown revenue. Looking at someone like Harvey Weinstein, notorious for his butchering of movies in production and post-production, and comparing his tactics to those of Lasseter -- at least in my opinion -- reveals the problems with most studios and the people in charge of them. You can tell that guys like Lasseter actually love what they're doing, and that's what marks the biggest difference.

@ crazymonk

The main problem with your claim that 3D is a technology that is waiting for its Wizard of Oz is the Wizard of Oz never charged viewers a premium for the right to view films in colour (as far as I am aware). Likewise with talkies, cinemascope or any other 'magic bullet' technology that the industry has proposed to save cinema over the years.

I would like to believe I am typical of many moviegoers, passionate about film, but on a budget. I cannot see myself paying any amount of extra cash for an experience that does not offer a major improvement in the cinematic experience. Speaking personally, I believe sitting in a darkened theatre for a movies already provides a more than adequtely immersive experience, and strapping a pair of goggles to my melon will detract from that, if anything.

The commonly stated reason for price increases for 3D films is the cost of the glasses. However in the case of all of the previously mentioned technological advances, the increase in admissions was expected to cover the shortfall for the costs of exhibiting their films in new ways. If the increase in admissions is not sufficient to offset the costs of a new technology, surely it is not sustainable to persist with such a technology?

(Of course this is all based on assumptions that past technical advances have not gone hand-in-hand with price increases. If this is not the case, feel free to rebut my argument, I always have a helping of humble pie in the refrigerator for such occasions..."

Up sounds great. I am reassured. I saw a trailer before Star Trek last Thursday night and some parts of the trailer worried me. Wall-E is one of the best films I have ever seen because of how well it fits me and my past experiences. Wall-E gets extra points for the melancholy perspective punctuated with hope. How common is that in a kids film? Maybe common I don't know. I can't wait to see Up.

I happen to be one of the very few who haven't really connected with some of Pixar's output. I loved the Toy Story movies, as well as The Incredibles and Ratatouille. I enjoyed Cars and Finding Nemo, but really found myself indifferent to A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc. and Wall-E. That's certainly not to say I don't appreciate the glorious animation, or the wonderful attention to detail, it's just hard for me to connect with the stories, sometimes. With A Bug's Life and Monsters, Inc., I felt that they were tailored too much towards children, and despite the stunning cinematography, Wall-E lost me when they went up into the space ship and we see all of the obese and unproductive humans.

Yet, with Up, I have to say I'm eagerly awaiting experiencing this one. The trailers are delightlful and the characters really look like the kind I can rally behind. Not to mention the animation--some of the most stunning I've yet seen from Pixar. Which brings me to the question of whether I'll go and seek this one out in 3D.

Now, the only recent experiences I've had with 3D were The Polar Express, Beowulf, and Superman Returns all in IMAX 3D. The Polar Express was a revelation, whereas Beowulf was ok, and Superman Returns was an absolute waste of my time. Chances are, I'll simply stick with the standard 2D experience. After all, the glasses are uncomfortable, the 3D is oftentimes distracting, and yes, I too notice that the colors are washed out. I'd rather just sit back and watch a movie unfold, rather than feel like I'm floating in the sky with the old man. 3D just may revolutionize our movie-going experiences, but I'm going to hold out a little bit longer before I give it another shot. However, there's no question in my mind that I'll be lining up to see James Cameron's Avatar, 3D glasses and all, come December.

"It is the responsibility of parents to explain this useful truth: If it ain't broke. don't fix it."

Nor silent neither black and white films were broken. Does this mean that we should still watch films without colors and sounds? The "If it ain't broken, don't fix it" sentiment is against development.

I think you should give the new 3D a chance roger. While it isn't a necessary element to enjoying a movie, it definitely adds a sense of wonder to the experience. I had the misfortune of seeing "My Bloody Valentine" and while the movie itself was so-so, the effect the 3D had on the experience was enormous. The movie used the 3D to toy with the audience and to truly engage us. I can remember one scene where a character points a shotgun at the audience slowly and laughs. The entire theatre erupted in nervous laughter at the thought that we would be afraid of the man on screen. Maybe it just works well for horror movies, but I have to say that I've seen alot of great movies this year, but my most memorable theater experience thus far has been at a 3D showing.

Also, I wish Toy Story 3 would come out sooner. The original has always been close to my heart and I can't even begin to imagine where the characters will be now.

I have to say I too was skeptical about 3D, until I saw Coraline. I was floored. It wasn't hoky or distracting at all. It was just awesome. It was something above and beyond a normal movie experience. 3D done right, not added on as an afterthought to generate revenue, or buzz, or whatever, but done for the sake of art, will elevate a movie to something far greater than 2D.

Just wanted to give Coraline its due. Looking forward to UP

I recently saw Alfred Hitchcock's "Dial M for Murder" on DVD. There were some unusual composition choices that I noticed at the time, lots of objects (lamps etc.) in the foreground, often right between two characters having a conversation. Obviously this was deliberate, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out why he was doing it. It was only after I watched the Special Features that I found out that the film was originally shown in 3D. Apparently in the 50's no director was safe from the 3D fad.

Still, it was an interesting use of the technique. "Dial M for Murder" was an adaptation of a stage play, and essentially the entire movie takes place in an apartment. The lamps and things were Hitchcock's way of giving the room a sense of depth; he chose to project the third dimension into the screen instead of throwing things at the audience as so many other 3D films do. (The one exception is during the murder scene, but this may have been effective as well--an added shock to the audience at just the right moment). This more subtle use of 3D was designed to simulate the experience of the theater; I don't think I've ever seen 3D used in this way before.

Of course I've only seen the film in 2D, which is just fine with me. It's still an excellent movie. And I agree with you that 3D usually distracts from a movie more than adds to it, calling attention to itself and away from the story on the screen. On the other hand, I wish I could see what a 3D film from a master director like Hitchcock would look like. If anyone could use the technique to its full potential, in service of the movie, surely it was him. I wonder, have you ever seen "Dial M for Murder" in 3D? Do you think it can ever be an asset to a movie, or must it always be a liability?

Ebert: I saw it in 3D, and so what. Hitchcock hated the process.

People ask if I would have been against sound and color. I don't think so. But silent films have a special magic, and I actually prefer b&w; to color. It appears that 3D is about to devour the field of animation, and that would be a tragedy. I can see that sound and color bring something to the table. 3D is simply a distracting element coming between the audience and the movie.

I feel that 3D is being introduced not because of higher ticket prices and piracy (although that is part of it), but because the in-theater experience is getting worse and worse while the home theater experience is getting better and better (and cheaper and cheaper), and they're looking for ways to keep people going to the movies.

With my fairly meager income, I've set myself up with an LCD projector, a screen, and decent speakers for under $1000. DVDs come out after a few months. Should I watch a movie in the comfort of my home with this setup, or go to a theater where I'm treated like livestock, the tops and bottoms of the screens are cut off, the image is blurry, and my fellow attendees are rude? I love the theater experience but the home experience is becoming more tempting.

Basically: the studios need to regain some control over the theater experience, if not owning their own theaters outright. I know why theaters were not allowed to own exhibition houses, but that seems outdated now. With this 3D technology, they seem to be hoping for some control over how people experience their movies. It's time to give them full control again.

I like pointless frippery as much as anyone, but if it requires me to squint through glasses then it's inadequate by definition in cinematic terms.

Also, based solely on the trailer I want that dog to get a spin-off movie.

What good is 3D? This is all I've got: When I was in college, one of the residence centers showed Creature from the Black Lagoon on Halloween. Everyone got the glasses, and admission was free if you showed up in costume. Bill and I went and sat in the front row--for the express pleasure of looking behind us during the picture at the sight of a few hundred college students wearing masks and Steve Martin-inspired arrows through their heads and fake beards--all wearing those glasses. Curiouser and curiouser.

By the way, I wanted to include a balloon-movie film festival list, and tried to think of the Australian film where the guy floats away on his--wait: Danny Deckchair? Anyway, I must warn you: Don't Google the words "balloon movies"--unless you want an instant education in a fetish weirder (albeit less creepy-crawly) than the one Cronenberg imagines in Crash. As Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide puts it--lambasting another Cronenberg movie, The Brood--"It's a big, wide, wonderful world we live in!"

I saw Coraline in 3D. In that case, I think that the 3D helped the story because it made the surreal fantasy world that much more surreal and fantastic. I can't see 3D enhancing a story unless that's the case.

I can't wait for Up. Every time I don't see a Pixar movie in the theater, I end up kicking myself when I watch the dvd at home.

right now is there a more bankable name in hollywood than pixar>

Wonderful as always, Rog. I think the biggest lesson to take away from Miyazaki (and the best Pixar movies) is that they were making movies; they were approached by people who saw their jobs as filmmakers and artists, not cinematic bricklayers.

I'm also not chafing to see this in either 3D or IMAX. If the picture is good, it only needs to be as big as the movies always have been. More isn't better.

I think it is wonderful what Pixar has done for film. Not since Disney movies over fifty years ago have animated movies been so anxiously awaited. And like those Disney films, Pixar doesn't equate to 'for kids', they are stories for all ages, just made in a more child friendly medium. I've been waiting for 'Up' for quite awhile, and can't wait to take my daughter, 13.

I agree with you that 3-D is a failure, but disagree with your forecast. I don't think wearing fancy glasses will end up being as key as everyone thinks it is, though. I do see a more immersive film experience coming down the road someday, the visuals being what equates to surround sound today. I just hope that when that day comes they don't abandon story for the novelty of being 'in' the movie. I would rather sit next to Charles Foster Kane, as he rests on his death bed, than be cornered by Jason Vorhees in some Summer Camp love shack. I think we both know what will happen first though...

I largely agree with you about 3D - that it's a gimmick and is already over-used (and that we'll probably have to suffer through more and more of them in the next couple years). However, I saw "Coraline" in 3D and felt it actually added to the film. That's because it was stop-motion, so the things are actually real, three-dimensional things, rather than pixels and bits and bytes. So it gave it a bit more depth. (That, and they didn't resort to cheap 3D "jump in your lap" gimmicks. Well, maybe once.)

Ebert: Your observation about stop-motion is probably key to the look of "Coraline." It was a 3D picture of a 3D reality, not a 3D picture of a 2D reality.

I agree with you on the whole 3-D thing though I felt it actually improved my viewing experience of Monster vs. Aliens. That film was special because it seemed designed for 3-D and it seemed to work for it's story. I actually think I enjoyed the film more than I would have in a standard 2-D theater. I saw the 3-D previews of Up and was disappointed with how flat and uninspired it looked. There is just something about the Pixar film's details that demands to be seen on a traditional nicely textured projector (I for one can't stand those digital screens at movie houses--they make the movie look like a damn DVD home video blown up on a 70 foot wall). I like my films to have that "film-look". It brings back a lot of memories.

I am always struck at how good the Pixar films always are. While their trailers are always terrible, they somehow never fail to disappoint. Movies like Wall-E are so good that they almost catch you off guard. You don't soak it all in the first time. Year after year Pixar comes up with some amazing stuff that is almost always entertaining on some level. I look forward to seeing Up on the big screen. I won't see it in 3-D. I don't believe that 3-D is totally a corporate gimmick in some cases, however, nine times out of ten like you said there's usually no good reason for it.

My favorite animated works of all time are probably (in no particular order):

1) Beauty and the Beast
2) Akira
3) My Neighbor Totoro
4) Grave of the Fireflies
5) The Secret of Nimh
6) Finding Nemo
7) The Wings of Honneamise
8) Cowboy Bebop (T.V. Series)
9) The Iron Giant
10) Steam Boy
11) They Were 11
12) Princess Mononoke
13) Kiki's Delivery Service
14) Paprika

Probably noticed a couple Miyazaki films. With good reason.

Actually, they're really not stylish in the least.
At any rate, I'm looking forward to this film.

Ebert: And only $699! The ones in theaters must be toned down.

Roger, your comments about 'Up' make me anticipate the 2D experience even more than I had been since I saw the first teaser trailer about a year ago. I'm glad to hear that Pixar hasn't missed the mark. Their track record is impeccable, and kind of hard to believe. Can you think of any other major studio that has never made anything less than a stellar film that garners unanimous praise from both the critics and the public? Their ability to make excellent films exclusively is unparalled, and I'm grateful my three kids (all under the age of five) are growing up with the Pixar films as their introduction to fine yet accessable moviemaking. I'm in my thirties, and as a child had to settle for the nadir of Disney's animation and live-action output of the late '70s to late '80s. Then again, we DID have 'E.T.' and 'Star Wars,' so I guess everything balances.

As gorgeous as the Pixar animated films are, nothing impresses me more than their stories.

Perhaps their obvious dedication to writing is equal to the stunning, life-like visuals is because--and I am not an animator so I am guessing--so much labor is involved with animation that to leave scenes on the cutting room floor or discover there is a plot-hole requiring re-shoots is far too costly. I imagine 8th, 9th, 10th drafts being poured over at the Pixar offices, ensuring that no detail is missed, that the evolution of the film's story stands on its own merit.

I suppose it would be easier (cheaper? faster?) to try and wow the audience with striking images alone, but I have to hand it to Pixar: no matter now beautiful their films look, underneath it all they know that it's still always about the story.

(noticing a second 'Matt K' on the last thread, we'll have to distinguish somehow)
The Disney-Pixar folks are really just creating something of a Renaissance. They're creating a kind of answer to the early Disney animated masterpieces of Snow White, Bambi, Dumbo, Fantasia, Etc... Consistency is definitely one of the most difficult facets to maintain, but their team or community of filmmakers have created so many revelations over the past decade or so. I'm so pumped about "Up" and I won't pay extra to see it in 3D.

so, it seems yet again a pixar movie is filled with all male characters? a fatal flaw that I have grown very tired of witnessing.

Ebert: Ellie plays a central role. And the bird gives birth.

I remember watching your show, Roger, when Joel Seigel chose "Pokemon" as the worst film of 1999 and lamented "The first film I ever saw in my life was "Pinocchio", a kid's first moviegoing experience should be that magical. I feel sorry for kids whose first movie was Pokemon".

I can smile now at the prospect that a kid's first experience going to the movies would be any of the magical films coming out of Pixar. The folks at Pixar tell stories worth telling. They have imagination and a generosity with their visual landscapes. These films are going to be remembered and watched 50, 60, 70 years from now because they are ABOUT something.

As for the 3D issue, I think these films are going to be viewed in first run in the 3D process but the process will be lost once the film goes into it's second and third week and when it goes on DVD.

Also, the kids who experience these films a generation from now will most likely see these films without that intrusive 3D process. So all hope is not lost.

This is going to sound blasphemous, but WALL-E, at least in the second half, disappointed me. The first half half was absolutely brilliant and enchanting, reminiscent of Clifford Simak's City (and that is a book ripe for an anime adaptation along the lines of Robot Carnival or Neo-Tokyo). But in the second half, the magic dissipated as the film makers insisted on hitting us over the heads with a big message, one which isn't particularly original, and which we had been told before, and better, by the likes of Frederick Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth. And I groaned at the utterly cliched ending. It would have been improved for me if there had been no human characters appearing at all, and their existence, or rather, prior existence, only implied. It would have made the attempted message both less heavy-handed yet more powerful.

I can't name a single Pixar movie with an all male cast. They tend to have male protagonists (which you could probably attribute to the people at Pixar being mostly male) but the female characters always have more prominence than they do in the majority of mainstream movies. They're never merely "The Love Interest", they tend to be just as fascinating and well developed as any of the men.

I loved Wall-e more than any film in 2008. Silly me feared for Up as the original trailer felt mawkish and overly sentimental. Could Pixar have been delivering it's first weak movie?

Once I saw that Cannes had signed on, heard from friends at the studio and now read your piece, I'm revved up to see the movie. I will search it out in 2D though.

Thanks as always for the wonderful posts. As an aside I recently watched "Man With A Movie Camera". Anyone with any interest in film, animation and magic should seek out this Russian 1920's masterpiece. I hope you agree. When the tripods moved I literally shivered!


Ebert: The Alloy Orchestra will present a new print from Russia with their original score at Ebertfest 2010.

I wanted to respond to Karen Bowers and her entry regarding Pixar films and all-male characters (May 12). I have only casually seen Pixar films over the years, and for the most part I've enjoyed them. I agree that some of them have a preponderance of male characters, but some names that stick out as central female characters in these films include Bonnie Hunt, Ellen DeGeneres, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Phyllis Diller, Annie Potts, Elissa Knight, Madeline Kahn (God rest her oh-so-hilarious soul), Holly Hunter and Allison Janney. And I'm still missing quite a few. I've never seen a Pixar film that gave me the impression they had any kind of male-character-domination agenda. But then again, I'm male, so maybe I just don't notice.

Roger, I discovered a copy of Hayao Miyazaki's Porco Rosso in a bargain bin a few weeks ago, and what a bargain! My kids have seen it five times, and I am surprised how often I never tire of seeing its glorious images. My kids have seen most of Hayao's works, except Princess Mononoke, which I've added to their must-see viewing list.

Boy, do you have a serious hate-on for 3D.

I do appreciate and hear your argument, opting for the purity of your movie watching experience, which closely mirrors Steven Spielberg's argument against digital cameras. However, I do have a fond memory of seeing my first 3D movie in the mid-80's before all the techno-hubub took over our movie viewing pleasure.

It was an exclusive screening of Vincent Price's horror classic, House of Wax. I saw it with the also classic 3D glasses with one red lense, and the other blue. As a teen, I thought it pretty cool, and didn't feel it distracted from the film. True, it can be argued that the movie could stand alone just fine without it, but I found it quite kitschy along the lines of other 50's gimmick movies like House on Haunted Hill, and The Tingler! Those are just plain fun.

My take on it is this: see the 2D version first, then for the fun of it, see it in 3D if you've become a real fan of the film. Otherwise, the gimmick takes center stage, instead of the story, as you've aptly put it.

P.S. - I have to ask this. How is it that you could go to Cannes, and still be commenting in your blog? I mean, if it was me, I'd leave my computer back home, and spend all my time soaking in the experience that is Cannes with all it has to offer. Then again, as I think on it more, it must be the journalistic instinct in you to post back what you've seen and done. It's just not in you to keep cool stuff to yourself. You desire to share with others. God bless you for that.


Ebert: I'd love to just soak up the experience, but I have a job and the paper might not enjoy it as much as I would.

You are right. For me having to visit a theatre to see a movie and to watch it in one go (rather than in "quanta" of ones choice and the choice of back-and-forthing along with the luxury of subtitles ) seems hard in itself ( I can reasonably claim to be a cinema lover if not a connoisseur) but having to put on Batman glasses to boot seems going too far. I share your chuckle---black ties and those glasses!

The best animation I saw was possibly Grave of the Fireflies.

Animation is to ordinary films what the brush is to the lens----at least paralell and certainly not subordinate and one can only regret the futures one may miss unless one believes in other possibilities.

Thank you kindly for the advance comments on this movie. Pixar films hold a special place in my heart, not least because of their wonderful colour palette. I agree with your childhood opinion of their realism!

I made a deal with my husband that I would see Star Trek in Imax with him if he'd see UP in 3-D with me, but had begun rethinking it over the last several posts about 3-D and other film technology, and now will see it in regular 2-D.

By the way, I vividly recall reading Conan Doyle's Lost World at around age 10 because it scared the crap out of me- I dreamed there were dinosaurs coming in through my windows for weeks. I'll have to track down the film and exorcise the creatures from my mind.


As a viewer of 3D versions of films like BEOWULF and CORALINE, I too fail to see the value of 3D - at least the glasses, which make vision darker and hazier than it is without them. I found that if I took the glasses off (usually because they hurt my ears), the screen was brighter, but also a bit blurry and I'd get a headache after a few minutes of watching without the glasses. All of this is my way of saying that you have convinced me to seek out the 2D version of UP when it hits theaters; I wasn't sure if I wanted to see it until I read your blog.

Roger, I think you are one of the most informative critics writing reviews. I have thought your reviews were exactly right in all but a couple of films, Star Trek was one, but maybe it's because I love the Star Trek franchise. Anyway I have to sort of disagree about 3D, while all the flash of poking objects at viewers eyes and making things jump out at you is quite annoying and of no additon to a film's storyline or conveyence, if a film is done correctly 3D can add so much. A 3D film should give the picture depth, it should take the image and not necessarly make it jump out at you but, go back into the screen as if you could reach into the screen. I do have to say 1 thing, 3D in the IMAX or digital IMAX MPX is far superior to 3D in regular auditoriums. Regular 3D (Real D, Dolby 3D Cinema) uses 2 images projected from 1 projector (this can make the images dim and loose color and resolution) on the screen using polarization to seperate the images for each eye. IMAX projects each image with a seperate projector giving you a bright image with excellent color fidelity and shaprness. Because of the geometry of the IMAX screen being so immersive to your view, the image does not seem to be limited by the boundries of the screen. I think we need to look at the films idividually and see if they are really condusive to 3D. While I do not think UP will benefit from 3D in a normal theatre, if it is remastered for IMAX 3D it will add a dimension to the film that will be enjoyed by all. IMO there's gimicky 3D, and then there is a subtler 3D which adds a great dimension to a film. I would ask of you, Roger, that if UP is available in IMAX, that you go and see it and then give a review of it in that format.

Ebert: I love the IMAX format, if I don't have to sit too close.

Roger, I must admit I've been skeptical about your views on 3-D films, but I've realized that's mostly because I really WANT to like technology. Having watched a couple films in 3-D now (mostly Imax, notably Superman Returns, Harry Potter 5 and U23D), I am starting to lean towards agreeing with you about 3-D.

What I've noticed about 3-D is that it either stands out to the point of being distracting, or you hardly notice it. In either case the question is the same - "what's the point?". Also, I find that it takes my eyes some time to adjust between 2-D and 3-D viewing, which is jarring in movies where you have to take the glasses on and off (I'm looking at you Superman). I thought U23D handled this well by having a slow, extended credit sequence at the start so our eyes can adjust to the 3-D effect without any fast distracting motion.

Furthermore, I came to another realization while watching U23D: 3-D images are the most convincingly realistic when shot with a 'normal' focal length (about 50mm for 35mm film). When the shots go either wide angle or telephoto, the image distorts and the 3-D immersion is broken. Wide angle shots make the scene look like it was a miniature shot with people out of scale with the surroundings, and telephoto shots compress the space to the point where there is no depth for the 3-D.

I think this is an inescapable aspect of 3-D films that cannot be reasonably overcome because of the physics of light and the way cameras work. Any shot that does not match the focal length of a human eye is going to look fake and break the illusion of being in the picture, which is the whole point.

Wow. The lead character looks exactly like an animated Spencer Tracy. Nicely done! If you need an image that instantly says "curmudgeonly old man," go with the best.

After reading this, I have to reflect on the fact that all studio screenwriters are fishing in the same pond.

John Truby has compiled a list of traits that separate Hollywood blockbusters from ordinary movies.

Q: what are the most common mistakes writers make?

Truby: 4. They don't know how to hang the story on the 7 major story structure steps, so the plot doesn't come from the character and the main character doesn't change. 7. They fail to give their hero a moral as well as an emotional weakness at the beginning of the story

When I first read about "Up," I wasn't enthusiastic about the main character, voiced by Ed Asner. He seemed to be all about "emotional weakness" just so he could change by the end. And because of his age, there were only so many ways he could change. ie, no surprises.

Ebert: Two of the three central characters are cranky old men, which is a wonder in this era when the captain of the Starship Enterprise must be three years out of school... "Up" doesn't think all heroes must be young or sweet, although the third important character is a nervy kid.

Actually, you can buy a DVD set of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" where the captain of the Enterprise is a cranky old man... and indulge to your heart's content. The new movie uses the one approach that hadn't been done to death by TV shows. The Story Line that fans ranked Number One on their list, Spock's experience at Star Fleet Acadmey.

One key to Pixar's success appears at the end of Truby's list of major structure steps: the creation of an original Story World.

In "Shrek," the story world assumed that fairy tales like Cinderella and Snow White were real. Fiona was a Princess waiting for her Prince to come.

"Toy Story" had a story world where toys could talk and had inner dialogues about their purpose.

"Jurassic Park" combined the beauty of Hawaii with dinosaurs.

"Cast Away" had a story world set on an island. Same for "Lost." (Trivia: dialogue was written for Wilson the Volleyball, to help Hanks have a more natural interaction with the inanimate object.) (More trivia: at a Q&A; session at USC, Roger Zemeckis revealed what was in the unopened package: A waterproof, solar-powered, satellite phone.)

Pixar's idea was, "a daring adventurer named Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer) uses his gigantic airship to explore a lost world on a plateau in Venezuela. The exterior is a really big zeppelin. But the interior, now, is one of those movie spaces you have the feeling you'll remember. With vast inside spaces, the airship is outfitted like a great ocean liner from the golden age, with a stately dining room, long corridors, a display space rivaling the Natural History Museum, attics spacious enough to harbor fighter planes... a solitary life shared only by robotic dogs."

I have a script with every one of those points... oh, well. Creating a Story World that the audience would pay to come back and visit a second and third time... is just as important as creating likable characters. My impression is, Pixar's score card reads

Story World 10 out of 10
Characters 4 out of 10

I'll revise the score card after I actually see the movie... but that's my impression from the trailer.

Roger - I've seen three recent films in 3-D and enjoyed each of them, without noticing any kind of muting of colors. I wonder if many years ago an older critic once said of color "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Same thing might have been said about "the talkies." Couldn't one have said the audio and color were simply ways to charge more for a ticket? I think those two things have worked out pretty well....

Not a big Trek fan; based upon your review I went to see Star Trek with some apprehension. Not sure what move you saw, but the one that I saw was very, very good. Well written, well acted, well done period. All science fiction is flawed; it has to be. Someone is imagining something that hasn't happened, yet. In "The Day The Earth Stood Still", who doesn't get stuck in the circular reasoning of Gort using violence to stop or prevent violence. Anyway, within 5 minutes of viewing, I knew that I would like this re-telling, much as I did during my first viewing of "Casino Royale".

Hoping all is well with you.


yes I should be careful commenting about a movie I haven't seen, but you say a bird gave birth, doesn't sound like a major role,and Ellie has no voice- so how major a role can that be? I liked the pixar movies I have seen, BUT I am very very tired of all these movies being like the smurfs- all male with at best a token woman(smurfette).What message are we sending to our children, the same old tired message that men and boys are the protagonists and women and girls either don't exist or are only there to be the backdrop and witnesses to what is going on. I know I sound strident but I think this is at least as important as the 3d question.

Ebert: It's actually a very major role, and very sweet.

Roger, on the subject of Pixar, why do you think it is that many (most?) people consider "Cars" to be an inferior film? I am a grown man and Cars is one of my favorite Pixar films, even more so than The Incredibles, which I didn't enjoy as much.

Pixar is fantastic, and so is reading your blog. Thanks so much.

Ebert: I liked it although it lacked even a single Studebaker.

For what it is worth, I have two children; girls ages 9 and 11 and they both dislike 3D. I've taken them to three films (Bolt, Monsters vs. Aliens, and something else).

After Monsters vs. Aliens my 9-year old said "I don't want to see any more 3D movies. They give me a headache and I can't sit however I want to, I have to sit how they want me to." You see, she likes to lean against my shoulder, or sit on my lap and lay back against me. When she does this the 3D effect goes wonky.

The first few minutes the effects absorb them, then it begins to irritate them. They start fidgeting, taking off their glasses, putting them reluctantly back on because not wearing them is worse.

I don't mind the idea that eventually 3D will be the way we experience movies, and I don't mind the R&D; into the technology, but we are a long ways away from a tolerable, pleasant experience in 3D.

I'm finding it hard to understand what would be gained by placing such importance on the gender of the lead in a film, out of a studio that has only ten films under it's belt. As has been pointed out, Pixar films have many strong, and important female characters. You couldn't have told the story of the Incredibles the same way had Mrs. Incredible only been there for backdrop.

Collette, in Ratatouille was a fully fleshed out character which ended up providing one of the more poignant and touching moments of the film, as she was the only other one in the kitchen capable of coming close to understanding Remy's situation.

Jessie, in Toy Story II also was a fully realized character, completely sympathetic, and involving.

Eve, in Wall-E, practically exudes assertive strength.

Contrast these with the recent "Monsters vs. Aliens". The makers, in interviews, made a large point that their film had a rare female lead in a CG animated film. Having seen that film, she and many of the other characters, were not nearly as well defined, and her path seemed less defined by her character, and more by necessities of the plot.

It seems to me that characters, male or female, are better served by well-rounded characterization and fleshed out personalities, than which sex gets top billing. If the demands of story dictate a female lead at Pixar, odds are you're going to get one (and in fact we will, when the Bear and the Bow is released in a couple years).

How could crazymonk have a problem with Pixar’s tone? The theme of UP seems like it may be about getting tied up with something powerful enough to carry you away. As cowardly as I am seeing those balloon strings go taught makes me feel very alive. Crazymonk, RWA, intrigued me actually. Dissenting opinions are so interesting.
Roger, smart Bill Hays keeps on saying that you should direct. I think so too. Roger Dodger could be an OLD paper boy who can’t (or won’t) believe he’s got himself promoted up to the editor’s desk. Imagine Tom Wilkinson staring down a stack of copy. What’s a dodger supposed to do with responsibility anyhow? Thank you Roger, for everything. I feel like I’m going to be busy all summer following up leads.

2D or not 2D, that seems to be the question. But what is the answer? 3D?
Any chance of writing the next column in 3D?
Lets see if the 3D is better then the 2D.
And Goddammit if the 3D is better, then maybe its time to start thinking about the 4D and then the 5D and then the 6D and D idle D and D eedle Dum and by the way thanks for pointing out the youthfulness of the the current Star Trek genearation, I was beginning to think that Alan Parker had done a Bugsy in Space...I will now have a little night cap in my 3D world and bid adieu.

Ebert: I love the IMAX format, if I don't have to sit too close.

Hear, hear! That's how I saw The Dark Knight: front row left! The pisser was that I'd gone to the theater and talked to the manager a couple days earlier, explained that I'd been an extra in it, a few trivia-playing friends and I were planning on attending the midnight IMAX showing (since the only slight possibility of spotting me would be on an IMAX screen, we correctly assumed), and asked if there was any chance of reserving 5 seats. I was told no. Well, we get there 10:30ish, and the only seats we found -- together, at least, presumably because no one else wanted to sit there -- were in the front row. They did, however, have two blocks of seats marked "Reserved": one block of six for Jamie Foxx and his posse, and one block of three just a couple rows behind us for Michael Jackson and his kids. Since then, I've given Brenden Theatres exactly zero dollars.

IMAX is wonderful, though, if the seats allow you to take in the whole screen. There's just too much visual information to sit up close and take it all in.

Aside from maybe three or four of their films, I've never really been all that attracted toward Pixar. "Toy Story" has a special place in my heart, though. Still, their cinematography's always been fairly interesting - to me, anyway. But, UP! looks like they're really starting to experiment with it, which is good.

Incidently, what are your thoughts on this increasing 3D trend? Thus far, we've had "Coraline," in 3D, "Monsters and Aliens," in 3D, and I'm sure we'll have more by the end of the year.

News having just come in, George Miller's sequel to "Happy Feet" is to be released November 2011, under the title "Happy Feet 2 in 3D." And, that's the one that hurts most of all.

Ebert: It's a mistake.

After reading "Irving! Brang 'em on!" I'm happy to see there's an newer journal entry - as hearing happy recounts of Edy Williams back in the good old days, just depressed the hell out of me. Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge you your past, but I never liked the circus, even as a kid. I always felt sorry for the creatures on display.

Kren Bowers wrote on May 12, 2009 4:08 PM - "...I liked the pixar movies I have seen, BUT I am very very tired of all these movies being like the smurfs - all male with at best a token woman (smurfette). What message are we sending to our children, the same old tired message that men and boys are the protagonists and women and girls either don't exist or are only there to be the backdrop and witnesses to what is going on. I know I sound strident but I think this is at least as important as the 3d question."

That was actually my first reaction to the trailer when I saw it months ago. Here we go again etc. Imo, men are so accustomed now to seeing themselves at the center of the universe, that they don't notice the disparity as much because for them, it's normal. But I always notice it - so too, the shape and form it takes for being sensitive to it.

WOMEN@THE BOX OFFICE - A Study of the Top 100 Worldwide Grossing Films. Last year, the president of production at a major studio allegedly pronounced that the company would no longer produce films with female leads. He suggested that such films are bad box office bets. In response, Manohla Dargis, film critic for The New York Times wrote, "it is hard to believe that anyone in a position of Hollywood power would be so stupid as to actually say what many in that town think: Women can’t direct. Women can’t open movies. Women are a niche" (May 4, 2008).

After examining the numbers, the author's conclusion? The bigger the budget the bigger the return, and men, more so than women, are featured in big budget productions. And so the mental math is: male protagonists generate better box office. And Hollywood follows the money - be it a cartoon or live action.

It's an issue for me because I grew up with Ripley - the Alien series, you know? And Katherine Hepburn (happy posthumous birthday, by the way) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and role models like that. Whereas now? Feminism lost its momentum and it gave rise to "half-naked" D-cup Laura Croft and "Sex and the City" and all that. Which kinda sucks. Note: people have a right to their choices but it doesn't negate the fact that collectively, choices help to enable the forces behind them; ie: you can choose to follow Martin Luther King for example or Rush Limbaugh eh? And why I don't feel good about the choices being made these days by young women - for seeing little girls trying to emulate Bratz dolls and dressing-up like hookers without realizing it. Eeww.

But I digress....

I haven't seen the film either and when I do, it won't be in 3D. The glasses pinch my head for starters, and the lenses are tinted and dull the screen. The fog in Coraline was an interesting effect, but I noticed it as an effect which pulled me out of the film - and I already have enough distractions in my head.

If you've worked in animation (Marie waves) part of your job was paying close attention to detail so as to catch any mistakes in your work. And it trains your eye to look for them, whether you inked cels or animated. And consequently I don't watch animation the way I used to as a kid. I catch every bad inbetween (poorly animated increments of subtle movement) every "iffy" bit of timing etc. And so 3D just makes it worse. It's one more thing to pull me out of the story. Moreover, it's got an agenda; it's about grabbing the video game generation while lowering your overhead as the two are increasingly related now.

Pixar just announced they're opening a Studio in Vancouver! Their feature films will still be made in California but the shorts will be done up here. They're planning to tap into Vancouver's talent pool (Gaming studios are to Vancouver, what motion pictures are to Hollywood) while taking advantage of our tax breaks and the lower dollar. Note: The worldwide gaming market is projected to be $65 billion U.S. Core demographic? 18 - 35 yr males.

Games are everywhere. In the past, you were asked to observe. Nowadays, you get to interact. But when you do, what are you "virtually" experiencing when you interact? What is the basic dynamic at work? What's the objective? What are the tasks? Action is the nature of gaming, and the action is in geared towards male sensibilities.

And so for me, the rise of 3D is about more than just trying to attract people to go see a film with bells & whistles. It speaks to larger issues a work as they pertain to girls and boys.

The current pop-culture is determined by Marketing, which takes advantage of psychology, pathology and behavior sciences - ie: study your customer, figure out what makes them tick and target that, by conditioning them in advance to WANT the thing you're going to sell them; the XBOX version of the movie.

P.S. I hate mindless chic-flicks with a passion. If I see Kate Hudson in the trailer it means "avoid it like the black plague". I have to live vicariously through non-offensive male fantasies because the bulk of what's out there for women insults my intelligence and makes me want to push the so-called heroine into oncoming traffic. They're making stuff for girls, but it's mostly STUPID stuff! Whereas I want to kick ass while being fully dressed and saving the planet from the evil corporate suits! :)

"It's actually a very major role, and very sweet."

SWEET?! That's it? That's her contribution? And if so, would you be content with it? Here lies Roger Ebert; he used to write a bit but he's best known for being likable while supporting his co-workers. Chuckle; sorry, I spent the day flipping through some books I've got by Pauline Kael, the critic I followed prior to discovering you and Gene, and now I'm in a brash frame of mind. :)

"I see little of more importance to the future of our country and of civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist. If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him." - Kael

Notice she said artist, not marketing dept.

Ever see her interview with Canadian reporter Brian Linehan?

Grin. Okay, I'll leave you alone now. :)

As far as Kren Bowers is concerned, Elastagirl/Helen Parr, a great character who holds The Incredibles together, her daughter Violet, Dory, Eva, Colette, Jessie, Sally the lawyer Porsche, and Roz don't count. They're all supporting characters, with the possible exception of Elastagirl in the Myrna Loy second lead. Bowers's beef, and that of the others who have said this about Pixar, is that Pixar hasn't applied their immense story talent to creating a female protagonist. Well, so far they haven't. Maybe they don't want to compete with their partner Disney on Disney's home ground.

I think 3D will be obsolete when the next phase of digital comes out. The detail and contrast in current great films are almost lifelike. There is only a matter of time when those attributes become so real looking, the 3D factor will naturally come to its own. I wouldn't be surprised if people like the Coen brothers and their use of cinematography(see the incredible Texas imagery of "No Country For Old Men") for their future films will bring out more 'realness.'

With films like James Cameron's "Avatar" and Spielberg's "Tintin," which are filmed IN 3D FOR 3D, how will you be viewing these?

What if you don't get a choice between 2D and 3D? (oh no!)

And, even though I understand your love for "Polar Express," what would it take for an upcoming 3D film to receive a 4 Star Rating?

I don't think a character's amount of spoken dialog has much to do with their importance to the story. Consider Wall-E, who hasn't a single line of dialog, all those stoic Mad Max/Clint Eastwood types who hardly say a thing, and obviously the silent era. I think that telling a story with as few words as possible is the essence of good filmmaking.

I don't at all think Mr. Ebert's comments regarding stereoscoping film viewings are negative. Like Mr. Ebert, I don't have a problem, per se, with "3D," but it is a simple fact that it diminishes the color, brightness, and contrast up to 35% (the average is 20%). Why would a film maker work so hard making a film look great only to have this process create a lesser experience for the audience (who get charged more for it)? I'll be happy with 3D when they fix this problem--but I doubt it'll be fixed soon. Thankfully, the 3D fad is already fading--helped immeasurably by the bush economic meltdown. Theater owners are less interested than ever in investing in a very flawed gimmick. At the very least, they're gonna wait until it gets better. Since no 3D film has turned a profit (with 80% of profits still coming from traditional projection), they've got most arguments on their side.

I saw a screening of "Up" in Boston. Brilliant film-so far the best this year. Not as "flashy" as Star Trek, but a much better, mature, and more memorable film. No live action film in recent memory has more believable characters as this film.

I saw Coraline in 3-D and, as far as I remember, at my theater at least, the tickets cost only the regular nominal price (read: way too much, but not more than other, non-3D movies). I found the experience a good one; the 3-D had a bit of novelty at first (did anyone notice the lattice around the edges during the beginning credits had a different depth-of-field than the writing?), but soon I wasn't thinking about it and I was getting lost in the bleak 3-D stop-motion world they created.

Why not film more films in 3-D? They can be made 2-d more easily than the reverse process; and some movies are really enhanced by the process. Those who wish to enjoy them in 2-D can see them in the other theater, and/or on DVD.

Some here have said that stop-motion animation is suited well for 3-d because it is "already 3-d". I agree, but at the risk of sounding like an even bigger nerd, I need to point out that all modern CGI animated features are inherently 3-D as well. They may not have existed outside of a computer, but in the end their 3-d space is as real as that of a stop-motion picture, or even a live picture: being beamed onto a giant, flat screen in a theater.

I'd bet large amounts of money that when color film was new but becoming common, there were people who still claimed it "adds nothing meaningful to the experience". If I met one of those people, I might try to explain to them that images seen in real life are in color. But then I'd have to explain that real life images are also seen in 3-D.

Well, the semi-optimistic news, 3D went threw a similar wave in 50's cinema which is the only reason why "Dial M. for Murder," was shot in the duel strip 3D format. Though people soon became bored of its obtrusive and rather annoying nature where as it took away from the actual story. I'm sure the same will happen today... well, I hope.

P.S... can you PLEASE do something similar, when Inglourious Basterds (assuming your there) comes out?I've read the script, or excuse me, Novel, and I find myself almost too excited.

For those of us who aren't at Cannes (which is undoubtedly all of us on this blog), thank you, thank you, for taking us along with you. It may be the closest any of us will ever come to actually being there. What a wonderful treat it is to experience Cannes via this blog. Merci!

Roger, I recall many, many times you have stated and/or written there has never been a great movie that includes a hot air balloon (I forget your reasons but I think you've also stated "The Wizard of Oz" doesn't count).
So would "Up" be the greatest movie that employs helium filled balloons that transport a house?

Ebert: Definitely the greatest movie that employs helium filled balloons that transport a house?

Roger -

I'm really enjoying the site; thanks for your contributions.

About your "muted color" problem: There now seem to be two ways of doing 3D in theaters these days. One is passive and involves the viewer wearing crossed polarizers, i.e., a polarizing filter in front of each eye whose axes of polarization are oriented at right angles to each other (and 45 degrees to the vertical, as I recall, because some movie screens were made from narrow vertical strips). The absolute best way to effect this kind of 3D would be to have two co-mounted cameras and two projectors, each fitted with appropriate polarizers, but I don't know if anyone actually does it this way. You could pull some stunt with using half the film frame for each eye's image (at the expense of resolution) and get away with one camera and one projector, each with an elaborate optical arrangement fitted to it (note that film doesn't "store" polarization; it just stores light that's been polarized).

Even in the optimum two-camera/two-projector case, though, you're going to have a dimmer picture. A perfect polarizer, just by the nature of what it does, would block half the light going through it - the equivalent of what a photographer or cinematographer would know as a "stop." So in this case, the viewer would perceive a loss of one stop of picture brightness from the same arrangement in 2D.

What you describe with the active liquid-crystal glasses would put you TWO stops down, effectively - one projector, alternating frames per eye, and then the polarizer. Too dark!

or every other frame with some kind of alternating polarizer

Tintin will be filmed for 3D in 3D? Bummer. I started reading the stories (in English only; so far my French has never been up to it) in serial form in "Children's Digest" in childhood, and was so looking forward to it. I can't even watch movies or TV shows with a jerky camera ("Southland" and "Friday Night Lights" come to mind) without getting carsick.

The only 3D I ever saw that was worth anything was the Terminator 3D at Universal. But it was made for that theater, and it was a live-action show with 3D, not a movie.

One thing this thread has made me realize is that I am way behind on my animated film viewing. I used to be crazy about cartoons, and there are too many older ones I haven't witnessed for myself. Better get cracking.

I've pretty much acknowledged at this point that 3D is a gimmick and perhaps a way to as you said drive up ticket prices and curb piracy but I'd be lying if I said I didn't find it admittedly a bit entertaining. Now with Coraline I felt it worked well as one of your other commentors said because it was a 3D image of a world that was actually 3-dimensional. With Monsters vs Aliens I felt the film itself was so kind of sloppy and reliant on action sequences that the 3D gimmick only added to it as it seemed to really have no emphasis on characters or story so much as just wowing the crowd with visuals. That said I wasn't exactly as wowed by as Coraline and maybe for this reason, I just didn't find that the 3D sucked me into the world of the film where as I felt completely overwhelmed by it seeing Coraline and especially through the portal into the other world.

I've been debating with myself for awhile now what to do with Up, I think that as a theater experience that I'll have the chance for with Up in 3D I might do it but at the same time Pixar films have been something very special for me ever since I was still a child. I've had a very intense emotional reaction to nearly all of these films and I'm worried that the 3D might detract from that first experience with the film.
After reading this I think it finally swayed me, I might see Up again in theaters in 3D if I go with friends or family but if it's my first time seeing it, I kind of want to make sure that first screening is in 2D.

I usually don't even think about going to the new animation films. I am of the age that thinks the old time cartoons we used to see at the beginning of movies were the best. But now I am curious about UP and plan to take my 22 year old daughter to see it. I noticed that someone above listed their favorite animated movies....I was shocked to see that Fantasia was not on the list. For baby boomers this was our introduction to animated classics, who among us doesn't remember Mickey dancing with his broom? By the way while you are in the French Riviera have you ever gone to the Hotel Negresco? My parents took us there in 1967 and I still remember dining on the veranda overlooking the Riviera, one of the most beautiful spots in the world.

here's why video games can (and occasionally are and will continue to) be art:

Immersion. You're not watching a character on the screen, you are the character. It can be just another form of storytelling... one that engages the viewer directly.

I imagine a day when the opening feature at Cannes is an interactive experience

Ebert: How will that work? Every audience member sees a different image?

I believe video games will never be great art. Whether I'm right or wrong, video games are not movies.

The problem I have with 3D is that two of the three people in our family can't see stereoscopically, Unfortunately, I've been finding in Toronto that the movies released in 3D (Coraline, Bolt, I'm sure the same for Up) tend to get the large downtown theatres, best projection, best sound; you have to go much further afield to find a good-quality 2D showing on a large screen. I don't find the glasses too annoying at least, (though the colours are somewhat dimmer), but it's a pain to pay extra for a gimmick I can't even see!

Its subtle and beautiful color palate.

Please, Mr. Ebert. You meant palette, I'm sure - the thing an artist uses to hold and mix colors. A palate is the roof of your mouth.

Sorry, I'm an editor and this makes my teeth curl.

Ebert: Duh!

Roger, aren't you being inconsistent when it comes to 3D? When the Polar Express came out, you praised the new glasses and the sophistication of the 3D. You said it was a big improvement.

I agree with you, though, that it is usually an awful gimmick and just "allright" at best. When it's bad, it's awful and when it's good, even very good, it's so so and might as well have been in 2D.

It can be a lot of fun, though- for about 30 seconds.

Ebert: Those were the new glasses. Also, I saw it in IMAX, with better light. It was a wonderful experience.

I used to be a big proponent of 3D movies, but now have my doubts. 3D can be wonderful in short bursts, such as in theme park rides (where the chair moves along to the movie), but that may well be the limit of its ideal use.

I still maintain, however, that the world cries out for more stereoscopy. How wonderful would it be if the major magazines (from Newsweek to Sports Illustrated to Entertainment Weekly) always contained a View-Master reel or two? Without movement, one could appreciate the depth of field without being distracted by the 3D effect. There would be no loss of color whatsoever. Best of all, you could feel as though you were really there.

And how about personal View-Master cameras? 3D has a rightful place in our culture, even if feature-length movies aren't it.

So much of 3-D is the gimcrackery of putting something in the audience's lap and letting them gasp. Most 3-D films just use moments of 3-D and otherwise let the audience sit with goofy glass on for no reason. 3-D is not about story telling. Story telling starts out on the printed page (or computer screen) and from there goes to film.

Lots of talk about "reality" here. Who goes to the movies for "reality"? I already have that, right now, like Chance the Gardener riding in the car, trying to change the world's channel with his clicker. Me, all I want from a movie is the truth, and you can get that with Pixelvision; just watch Nadja (1994).

I recently saw Up _at_ Pixar. In 2D. Suffice it to say, I don't think anyone present, presenting, or projecting thought we were missing anything. ;)

To Kren Bowers : I do not understand what you meant by another Pixar movie with all male characters.

Toy Story 2 had Jessie (the cowgirl)
Monsters, Inc had Boo (the little girl that transformed the monsters)
Finding Nemo had Dory and Flo.
Wall-E had Eve
The Incredibles had Elastigirl, the daughter and Edna
Ratatouille had the other chef teaching Remy
A Bug's Life had the Queen and Princess Ant and other female bugs
Cars had lady Porsche lawyer

So that's more than half of Pixar films with major female characters.

I am so happy you are back at Cannes! I can't be there in person so I rely on your updates. You're great. Thanks!

Up looks to be another sizzler from the pixar team. Pixar films are never less than decent and I have yet to be dissapointed.

I'm not yet jumping on the 3D bandwagon. I find the 3D presentations distracting and less enjoyable. I spend more time fidgeting with the glasses than I do watching the movie. Midway through the movie I start to wonder why I'm not enjoying it as much as everyone else is. Am I looking at it wrong? Is there something I'm not seeing? Is it like one of those paintings with the hidden picture, maybe I should try unfocusing my eyes. No thanks, I will just stick with 2D.

In the stills, Carl reminds me so much of Spencer Tracy in Guess Who's Coming To Dinner that it makes my heart hurt.

I don't know the specifics on cost, but why can't theaters just fix or replace their old projectors with clear digital projectors that are as close as theaters can get to an HD experience?

I High-def cinematic experience is far more satisfying than a 3D one for me. After watching Blu-rays at home it's almost a chore to go to the theater to watch a muted, faded, blurred image on screen.

Using Pixar as an example, Wall-e on Blu-ray was a much more enjoyable experience for me than seeing it in a theater.

I think 3D is just a superficial bandage to draw people's attention away from the real problem with theaters, which is the overall video quality. In this world of High-def it's becoming more and more apparent that theaters do not maintain, care for, or replace their projectors.

Now that you're at a film festival, Roger, maybe you can answer this question: Why is it, when you go to a film festival, you always seem to choose movies that you will see later at critics' screenings in Chicago? Why not use the opportunity to see movies that don't have a distribution deal, and could use the publicity?

I'm really looking forward to "Up" and actually anything that Pixar puts out. They really are amazing, delivering films that continue to be: visually groundbreaking, fun, funny and also quite poignant.
As soon as I heard Ed Asner was in this, I was sold. The man has so much life in his voice because he has lived life. Sure, his casting probably caters well to the character of Carl but it's no less refreshing to see someone at his age carrying a major summer film (animated or not) that everyone can enjoy.

AND NOW for my senior tangent....

Personally, I find myself more attracted to action films where the protagonist (male or female) is over 50 years old. I know I know....there's a shortage of actors doing such work and that's a shame. Ford, Stallone, Willis and Neeson (to name a few) are all over 50 and still dabbling in the action genre....and why not? It's just more interesting to see how it plays out, especially when we can revisit iconic characters like Indiana Jones, Rocky Balboa, Rambo and John McClane. The distance of time "hopefully" adds another dimension to these roles.

It's just too bad we don't see more women protagonists in these type of stories. Imagine how great it would be if we had a film with a storyline where Helen Mirren comes home to her London flat to find that her husband of 40 years is dead. Still in shock, she starts digging around and uncovers the truth about her husband....he was an assassin. Feeling isolated and alone, she decides to pick up where he left off and do what he had done. She starts taking jobs (or hits) that he would have taken all in an effort to find who killed him. She struggles with this drastic change but also become invigorated by it.....or something like that. I know that's kinda generic but you get the idea.
Hey, Taylor Hackford can even direct it!

....END OF senior tangent.

I'm disappointed to learn though that the talent folks at Pixar are going with the 3D approach, it's so unnecessary and have a feeling it won't last that long. I'm disappointed that they will be re-releasing all the "Toy Story" movies in 3D to coincide with the third film. Ah well. It's not that I can't stand 3D, I just find it unnecessary and kinda annoying. I have only seen one 3D movie which was last year's concert film "U23D" and I have to admit, that was pretty amazing. The sound and vision of it all was captivating but I saw it cuz I like U2 not cuz I like 3D. I honestly don't know if anyone sees a 3D film cuz they like 3D.

I hope this 3D thing is just a fad in the end simply for personal reasons. 3D doesn't work on me at all. Literally. I understand James Cameron's motivations for it, give the people a reason to see it in theaters, but I hope I don't need the ability to see 3D to fully enjoy his movies from this point.

I do wonder if they fixed that nausea problem, though. I worked in a theater when Spy Kids 3D came out and that made for a pretty disturbing cleanup. As if a minimum wage job could suck any more.

I think what Kren Bowers was trying to say was that none of the Pixar films have a female lead character, not a major character. There's a big differenct telling the story from the female's perspective and having a female contributing to the unfolding of the lead male's story.

Also Roger, do I detect a resemblance of the photos of the UP character Carl to you?

I have enjoyed reading the commentary on 2D vs 3D. Yes, the glasses are an issue, the dimness is an issue, just getting used to it is an issue. But the reason that 3D may not EVER catch on (unless someone can bend the laws of physics and/or change the way the brain processes information) has to do with realism.

When film discovered montage editing, it increased psychological realism because that's the way people actually view the world: from "shot" to "shot." And by the way, that was probably the most brilliant technological advance ever.

When film discovered sound, it increased realism because most people listen and watch at the same time.

When film discovered color, it increased realism because most people see the real world in color.

When film discovered stereo, then surround sound, it increased realism because most people can hear in stereo and place sounds in the real world.

Now that film is dabbling again in 3D, it is not increasing realism because it must give up depth of field for spatial depth. In other words, in a 2D film, the director can choose what objects are in focus and what objects are not, but everything in a 3D film frame must remain in sharp focus so each viewer can train their eye anywhere in the frame and note its perceived spatial depth. In the real world, our two eyes can do both -- namely, choose what to focus on and perceive how far away it is. 3D films just trade one thing off for another, and for most people, that nets no additional realism.

Also, to respond to someone who asked a question early on, 3D doesn't add to immersion because all objects on the screen really appear from the distance to the screen BACK, not forward. All this marketing hullabaloo about objects seeming to "pop out from the screen" only applies to the people sitting in the front 1/4 of the theatre where the screen fills their field of vision (except in IMAX, where it's about 2/3 of the audience), and EVEN THEN it's only after our brains have clicked over to buy the trick. That's why so many people get that headache: their brains can't make the switch. It's the visual equivalent of those people who get nauseated in motion-control rides where the sensory conflict is too great.

All this to say: until a 3D technology is created that can retain spatial depth without giving up depth of field, it will continue to be something that is just "close, but no cigar."

Meanwhile, I'll gladly pay the extra four bucks and geek out with the rest of the 3D nerds, because let's face it: it's cool.

Didn't we already have this 3-D discussion a while back on another blog? As I recall, the whole business was determined to be a classic gimmick, good for spot use (if at all). Now the talk is "wave of the future" (what, again?) with partisans on all sides up in arms. Well, as long as I'm here, there is something I've been meaning to mention...

(Disclaimer: I know that this should go to Answer Man, but I can never get that one to work right.)

Anyway... There's a movie just out on DVD called IN THE ELECTRIC MIST. It stars Tommy Lee Jones, Mary Steenburgen, and John Goodman, and is directed and co-written by Bertrand Tavernier from a novel by James Lee Burke. As best as I can determine, this picture recieved no theatrical release of any kind, going straight to DVD instead. I can just imagine all the office politics that went ino this decision, such as:

"It's a genre movie (police detective)and nobody goes to those anymore.That's what TV is for."

"Tommy Lee Jones hasn't been able to open a movie in years; he's, what, 60-something now? His last hit was when?"

"Comes to that, everybody in this is old. So they won awards years ago; who cares?"

"And who gives a rat's rear about some fancy-schmancy French director that only Roger Ebert ever heard of?" And so forth.

And thus IN THE ELECTRIC MIST goes directly into stores, with no fanfare, no publicity to speak of, not even so much as a phony blurb to call its own. Meanwhile, you're lollygagging around in Cannes, at what you yourself admit has become little more than a glorified trade show - "Blockbusters Priced To Go! Be The First In Your Market To Have A Billion-Dollar Opening Weekend!Act NOW!!!"You're looking for the next Bergman, the next Truffaut - and you're more likely to find the next Billy Baxter (which wouldn't be a bad deal, I guess, but really...).

I guess the point of this little diatribe is: how many worthy films are getting orphaned like IN THE ELECTRIC MIST, while The Next Big Thing (whatever it may be) is hyped to the heavens, in search of the Big Opening Weekend? Something to think about, no?

I think 3D is only really needed for bad movies so that occasionally something can be thrown toward the audience to wake them up.

But I'm wondering if you don't like even the idea of a 3D movie or is
it just that they don't yet give a good picture? If a play or
concert could be recorded and presented in perfect 3D wouldn't
that provide a better "you are there" experience than 2D?

Actually when it comes to animation, I miss the non-CGI features.
I loved Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Miyazaki's
films and "The Triplets of Belleville" has a special place in my

so has UP topped the inCredibles as your favorite pixar film?

Because my first encounter with 3D was at a theme park, I associate it more with rollercoasters than I do cinema, and I think trying implement it into film is doing a terrible disservice to the art. Perhaps 3D can be used to make theaters more versatile so that they can offer both movies and 3D ride-like experiences, but I agree with you: it only distracts from the story being told, and that's a big sacrifice if the story's being told by Pixar.

I'm a bit puzzled by your characterization of children: "Kids say they "like" it, but kids are inclined to say they 'like' anything that is animated and that they get to see in a movie theater." Elsewhere, you have insisted that children are smarter than movies assume and that their intellegence should not be insulted by marketing gimmicks. What do you believe about 3D, children, and the movie-going experience?

Reply to: About your "muted color" problem: The best way to project 3D would be to have two co-mounted cameras and two projectors, each fitted with appropriate polarizers, but I don't know if anyone actually does it this way

Here's how IMAX is planning their future:;=x

MWilson: IMAX used to build their own massive theaters in their own buildings. In order to expand, IMAX has made a deals with major theater chains to install a proprietary mix of projectors, screens, speakers and hardware if the theater will foot the bill for the necessary structural renovations.

IMAX installs a new screen that's as little as 10 feet wider than before, but moves the stadium seats 30 feet closer, creating a "sitting too close to the TV effect" The eye is tricked into thinking the new screen is 75 feet wider than before.

(instead of using traditional IMAX film, which can cost $40,000...)

Their new design uses two 2K Christie digital projectors that spit out the same image at the same time. (A slew of top secret proprietary imaging adjustments goes on at all times.) (Some nice photos if you click the link)

IMAX thinks their dual projector system offers a sub-pixel accuracy that, when combined with some extra imaging processing, looks better than Sony's 4K.

IF and when a more suitable base projector becomes available (be it 2K, 4K or higher), the theaters can upgrade... (end)

One potential advantage is that IMAX will have a better 3D projection system.

I saw an interview with the writer (Ben Bird? Director?) of "UP" who described his own adventures in Venezuela, where he said "I've got to make this into a movie."

Here's one thing about writers: They ALWAYS think their own stuff is great. Why? Because they are judging it using the same priorities as they used to create it.

Roger complained that the bridge of the Enterprise looked like "take your kids to work" day. Here are the writers:

And here's the new Chekov:

And Scottie:

I'm always looking for guinea pigs. I like to sit down with strangers and tell them my script ideas, and watch their faces. And, wow. If you made a list of the last ten movies released into theaters, no one would react favorably to hearing their story lines without actors attached.

ie, Matthew McConaughey as a player who realizes that the girl he wants to marry is about to marry someone else.

Most of the movies being made... are either based on what sets the director has available, or something he saw on TV last week. No one is making movies that people really want to see. they haven't figured out how. How many people still list "Cary Grant movies" as their guilty pleasure?

"Titanic" did it right. A real historical event. Not something "made up" or involving "aliens who came through a black hole," but something ordinary folks think they'd enjoy watching.

It's very difficult for a writer to look at his own work and judge it. The result is usually something like "Treasure Planet."

Oh, yeah. The beagle. In "Star Trek," Scotty got put in the doghouse because he sent a beagle through the transporter and it never arrived anywhere. That's a set-up, and the beagle was supposed to appear on a transporter pad on the Enterprise at the end of the movie. So, just in case you were wondering, Scotty didn't kill the beagle. It came through safely, just a few weeks later than expected. I was waiting for that scene, and maybe I missed it.

Ha! i can't remove the image from my mind of that first night's Cannes audience in Black tie and 3D glasses staring up at the screen... except I see them all wearing white gloves...

I see in your response to "TheFilmist" that you are passing judgment on Happy Feet 2 in 3D, a movie still in production. Shouldn't you wait to see the first 8 minutes before drawing conclusions?

I won't be seeing very many 3-D movies. In Toledo, Ohio, the nearest multiplex, a matinee is $7.50, but for a 3-D movie, they charge $11.25. Too much. (I always go to matinees. smaller audience.)

I saw both Coraline and Monsters vs. Aliens in 3-D. 3-D was not a must for MVA.

What I want to know is: why hasn't that last great innovation of the 20th century found its way onto the big screen, replacing the musty old 3D glasses technology? Yes, I am talking about those Magic Eye pictures that "ignited the world-wide 3D craze of the 90's", according to their website. They hold the patent for their "cutting-edge stereogram algorithm".

Want to see what UP would have looked like if it used Magic Eye technology? Click here

This may sound totally irrelevant, but I just wanted to know if you've seen 'Happy Feet'. And if you did, could you briefly tell me what you thought about it? I understand that you didn't review it, as I couldn't find a review of the film on your website.

Thanks a lot!

(P.S. I dislike 3-D too... it's either too much of a distraction in some scenes or totally unoticable in others.)

Who wants to be "immersed" anyway, to lose oneself or to forget that a movie is a movie !

Thank you Dale Haas!

I generally share the view of some commenters here that 3D should be viewed as merely another tool in the filmmaker's toolbox, with the the potential to be used for good or for evil.

However, I must thank you for providing such a clear and rational explanation of the technical tradeoff the director must make when 3D is employed: while the director can take control of the virtual spatial depth of elements in the stereo image, there is still only one plane of focus where the image is actually projected onto the screen. Audience members can control the position of their gaze, but must not literally adjust their focus to try to accomodate for the virtual 3D position of the element they are looking at: they must remain focused on the real physical position of the element on the observer's reference plane of focus (the screen). Because of this, the director will create potentially conflicting (and nauseating?) visual cues to the viewer unless he renders every element in sharp focus, regardless of virtual spatial depth.

Your explanation prompted me to do some hunting on google, and I discovered this excellent article from that explains the biomechanical tug of war that happens in our eyes due to this limitation when we watch 3D movies:

And yes, despite this I will still be seeing Up in 3D for the "wow" factor. ;-)

I had the privilege of seeing 'Up' about a month ago at a pre-screening here in Houston which, you'll be happy to hear, was in 2D.

Like any Pixar project, I thought it was a powerful, heartfelt story and I enjoyed it immensely. However, I found myself put off by some of the artistic liberties that Pixar took with some of the characters.

*Spoilers Ahead*

I know you're a fan of animation, Roger, so you may be familiar with Pixar's belief in "truth to materials", which is to say that subjects on screen should be restrained to what their materials allow them to accomplish. (i.e. Lightning McQueen operates like a car, WALL-E operates like a robot, Nemo operates like a fish, etc...)

In the same way that the subjects on screen are restrained to what they are physically capable of, they should be restrained by what they are mentally capable of. So, when villian Charles Muntz' army of dogs began flying airplanes, engaging in aerial combat, the story lost alot of credibility with me.

Dogs do not have the mental or physical capabilies to perform such a task. Now, if the dogs had been established as having super-canine capabilities early on in the story, I could let it slide. But the dogs in this movie are established as being more or less real dogs, with real dog capabilities. I didn't buy it.

Also, towards the end of the movie, Carl Frederickson is holding on to one end of a water hose, lifting up Russell, Doug and Kevin the bird, who are dangling off the side of the blimp. That would be several hundred pounds. This is the same Carl who earlier in the story couldn't walk down a flight of stairs?

*End Spoilers*

Heheh, I don't mean to be hard on Pixar, but it's hard not to expect perfection from those guys.

Take care, Roger!

As an animator I'd just like to thank you for treating animation with respect.

It seems like the vast majority of movie critics and reviewers don't pay attention to the process and how much work is involved, or they assume knowledge of the process and regard us as hacks.

They either don't know what we do -- which is fine except they don't care to find out, either -- or they think it's magic finger-snapping instead of fits of inspiration accompanied by mind-numbing levels of tedium and elbow-grease just to get anything looking half decent.

There are reviews I've read this year about animated films that have the awareness of what goes into animation that someone might reasonably have in the late 80s.

The only taste I had of 3=D was in 1972 in New Delhi in a short "demonstration" on a circular or semi circular screen as I remember. Probably or certainly it must be very different what you are discussing. But the question (apart from the discomfiture of having to wear glasses) is whether its desirable or possible to be led into forgetting that a play is a play, a box a box or a window a window. My preference(necessity too admittedly) for the small screen home experience is to avoid over immersion. Psycho was immersive enough that way. And Rosemarys Baby is long waiting its turn in the Q!

Perhaps the Academy will take a lesson from Cannes and discontinue the category 'Best Animated Feature'. Pixar has proven (with Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, WALL-E and now Up) that an animated film is just another technology of telling compelling stories, and not a different film form really. But then you cannot expect much from an organisation that considers 'Chicago' and 'Slumdog Millionaire', as great films.

Allow me some envy in your beautiful Cannes balloon voyage---Cannes is a word which conjures up the magical sublime in the world of film--up and up and up!! Bon voyage and happy ballooning!

eric wrote on May 13, 2009 9:51 AM - "here's why video games can (and occasionally are and will continue to) be art: Immersion. You're not watching a character on the screen, you are the character. It can be just another form of storytelling... one that engages the viewer directly. I imagine a day when the opening feature at Cannes is an interactive experience."

Ebert wrote: How will that work? Every audience member sees a different image? I believe video games will never be great art. Whether I'm right or wrong, video games are not movies.

It wouldn't work. The minute you can control something on the big screen, you change the story for everyone else - it would be chaos. If you have your own screen (say, mounted on the back of the chair in front of you) then you've reduced said interactive experience to the equivalent of being at your desk at work; as what's the difference?

When you read a book, your imagination fills the screen inside your head with everything your mind can see on the page; you mentally produce the story and cast all the parts. Films on the other hand, do that for you. But they still engage your imagination by asking you to "picture yourself" in someone else shoes. The story may speak to you, but it's not literally about you. You're engaged directly and participate in the story but on an emotional level by feeling your way through it, frame by frame.

Whereas video games speak directly to the reward center inside the human brain. You're handed a task or objective and if you succeed, what you get in exchange is "feeling good" about having won. Which, big surprise, reportedly really appeals to men:

That said, I do think "some" video games can be viewed as Art, but more so by accident than design - as first and foremost, a game is meant to be played for the action; not contemplated or discussed like a book or a film.

Note to Roger: games often incorporate what's known as "cutscenes" in between the action - ie: animated scenes at the end or start of each new level, which advance the plot or provide further character development. And in some rare but admirable cases, those segments when combined, actually play out like little movies.

"Star Wars: The Force Unleashed" is such a case. The game itself is rather repetative, but the story behind it - now that's noteworthy! All totaled there's an hour worth's of storytelling and imo, this is the movie they should have made and didn't! Not to be a geek about it, but it'll be confusing otherwise - the time line:

Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith (the last movie Lucas shot.)
Okay, now insert "The Force Unleashed"
Star Wars IV: A New Hope (the 1st movie shot in 1977.)

So that's when this is taking place. It connects the two trilogies.


Having crossed over to the dark side, Anakin is now Darth Vader and together with Palpatine (that evil Emperor dude) they're looking to kill the remaining Jedi knights in hiding. Darth manages to locate one - and murders him in front of his young son, only to then spare the boy for sensing he's special; the child of two Jedi, the force is strong in him - Darth sees he can be of use. And so he takes him, and raises the boy as a secret apprentice schooled in the dark arts.

His moniker is "Starkiller" (only in the novel version will he have a name: Galen Marek) and he's dispatched by his master Darth Vader to kill the remaining few who survived Palpatine's Jedi purge. Although acting as a villain, Starkiller is really just an emotionally damaged young man, and the focus of the game is to allow the character to evolve into something more heroic, greater. One of the directors David Collins, saw a physical resemblance between the character's concept art and his friend, actor Sam Witwer. Long story short: he secured the role by showing a deep understanding of the character's pathology; it was Witwer who brought new ideas moreover, to the portrayal of the character and imbued him with a sense of humanity. Note: the character's name is a homage to "Annikin Starkiller" the original name for the character that eventually became Luke Skywalker.

Sam Witwer plays "Davis Bloome" aka Doomsday on Smallville. That's how I know this stuff, it's all connected, chuckle! I've seen the cutscenes - it's brilliant. I loved the story, it's so poignant! He regains his humanity and dies a hero's death worthy of Joseph Campbell! He does not get the girl he loves. There's no victory party. He dies because he chooses in the end not to kill the one who taught him how to hate; he chooses not to kill Darth Vader.

Game Trailer:

I mention all this because I agree and disagree with Eric while agreeing with you, Roger! Yet at the same time and not to be a Gemini about it or anything (smile) there's a damn good movie in there if you just get rid of the game! And the actors hired to play the characters for the animators, somehow managed to leave a bit of themselves behind in the data recorded by all that technology. And so I admire what there is to; while the game itself is too tedious for my liking (see it, kill it) despite looking really good - excellent graphics.

Georgette wrote on May 13, 2009 4:36 PM - "I think what Kren Bowers was trying to say was that none of the Pixar films have a female lead character, not a major character. There's a big difference telling the story from the female's perspective and having a female contributing to the unfolding of the lead male's story."


And even Coraline was a petulant brat. The only female in a starring role right now is Hannah Montana - which is enough to make me want to shoot myself. Or better still, grab a light saber and just go berserk.


Well Roger - You are a persistent fellow aren't you? Interesting that you spend HALF your review talking directly or indirectly about 3D. But here is the kicker - you DIDN'T SEE IT IN 3D!

How on earth you can claim to be a critic (other than vast tomes of past efforts) when you have nothing to criticize about UP's 3D? Honestly, give it a rest. You saw it in 2D - fine. Perfectly acceptable and yes, most will see it in 2D (soon to change of course). So comment on what you saw, not what you imagine the 3D would do to it! Talk about exasperating!

You are right in that it is a heckuva story. And it is a powerful risk they took - but they succeeded. And the 3D? It excels! It brings you INTO the story and frankly you forget you are watching it in 3D for vadt parts of the movie. The scene where Russell is flung off the cliff hanging on the rope is simply SPECTACULAR in 3D! My jaw dropped open. Like you were really there - in an animation no less!

So, here I am giving you advice again on 3D - hoping that you are not destroying your legacy of fine work by a huge misstep later in your career. I applauded your recent achievement at ShoWest and your resiliency vs. what life can throw at a person. But I implore you, consider your fans before spouting off about a movie's format that YOU NEVER SAW. And even if you did see it that way, temper your comments to your opinion and not a sweeping, all-encompassing statement against stereoscopic 3D because you will be proven wrong. Embarrassingly wrong. Especially when AVATAR comes out for all to witness. There will be no hiding then Mr. Ebert.

Jim Dorey
Editor & Founder,
3D Movies & Technology

Ebert: I gave four stars apiece to "Polar Express" and "Beowulf" in 3-D and am looking forward to seeing "Up" and "Avatar" in 3-D. You do not address my points. Is the light indeed dimmer on the screen? Is 3-D necessary?

off-topic: your review of the Chorus Line documentary was excellently written and inspirational.

>I was worried this may be Pixar's flop, but this blog lifted my >spirits. Actually, it kinda slapped me and said "You moron, Pixar >knows what they're doing!"

Heh, I felt the same way.

I'm really looking forward to this movie. I hope I can get it in 2D somewhere...

"Up, up and away, in my beautiful, my beautiful balloon"? Why Mr. Ebert, I never pegged you for a fan of The Prodigy.

"Hotride in my air balloon/Slipping fast right around the moon/On a bullet train out of town/Walkie-talkie, one hand down".

It's either that or someone's picking your review and blog post titles for you. Emerson!

Ebert: My headline. The Fifth Dimension, I believe.

I was privileged to see some of the concept art for Up! a few weeks ago at Pixar and I have to agree with you that the colors and design of this movie are stunning. I am disappointed that the marketing for this movie has not hinted at the emotional depth that is obvious once you understand the motivations behind Carl's journey. I was only half-heartedly interested in seeing the movie until I began to fully understand that it was a psychological journey as well as a physical one. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here!

Mr. Ebert:

Your's is the second review I've read that has suggested forgoing the 3D movie and take UP in 2D. I think 2D is the route that we will see it. My 3yo hates the glasses! ;)

This is a film that my whole family has been waiting to see! The trailers and snippets we've caught are hilarious!

It's funny that there is criticism out there that most of Pixar's leads are male when their inspiration -- Hayao Miyazaki -- produces epics with strong female leads.

Have a grand time at Cannes!

At the Four Word Film Review, I've described "UP" as "Inflation creates housing crisis."

Roger, I agree that 3D technology has been mostly a distraction up until now. Both the technology and its use have been equally at fault. Awful, headache-inducing red-blue glasses and picture-ruining polarizing glasses have been used to needlessly throw objects at the audience and distract from the story.

This new 3D technology _will_ solve at least one of those problems. Shutter glasses work not by filtering the light, but by exploiting the natural cycle of film projection. I'm sure you know how it works, but for those who do not, films are projected at 24 frames per second, with each 24th of a second broken up into quarters. For the first quarter of that 24th of a second, the frame is projected. For the second quarter, the light coming out of the projector is blocked, showing a black screen. For the third quarter, the light is allowed though again, showing the same frame for a second time. For the final quarter, the light is blocked again and the frame advances. The picture appears steady due to the rate at which this occurs.

This new technology projects the same quality film at the same frame-rate and brightness, only instead of leaving the second and 4th quarters of each cycle black, the alternate frame for each eye is shown. The glasses provide the alternating black frames for each eye every other quarter of the normal projection cycle.

By interleaving the frames L-R-L-R before advancing the action, ghosting and other strange 3D artifacts (caused by one eye lagging the other) are eliminated. Since the glasses aren't filtering the light, there are no problems with color saturation or brightness. There's no added flicker because your eye is already used to the frame-black-frame-black cycle used by every 2D movie you've ever seen.

The only problem is with the high per-seat cost of the glasses. Well, that and properly using 3D to enhance a film. But I'll leave that part of the problem to filmmakers.

By Georgette on May 13, 2009 4:36 PM

Also Roger, do I detect a resemblance of the photos of the Up character Carl to you?

I thought the same thing, Georgette! Great minds yadda, yadda, yadda...

Ebert: I should sue.

Ebert: I gave four stars apiece to "Polar Express" and "Beowulf" in 3-D and am looking forward to seeing "Up" and "Avatar" in 3-D. You do not address my points. Is the light indeed dimmer on the screen? Is 3-D necessary?

Hi Roger

When you take your glasses off during a 3D movie you see an overly bright overly saturated version of the movie as it is color timed to offset the light loss through the glasses. Yes we want more light and technology has a habit of solving these temporary problems.

Is 3D necessary?
Yes if you have decided to tell your story using spatial film making as a component then it is . If you have decided to tell your story as a flat art it is not. If you have decided to tell it around a campfire then you need nothing but a voice and an audience.

Movie making is not story telling. Movie making is a technique used to tell a story. Some would argue that movie making is an unnecessary gimmick and a book is better.

Ebert: Your observation about stop-motion is probably key to the look of "Coraline." It was a 3D picture of a 3D reality, not a 3D picture of a 2D reality.

Computer generated movies are not 2D they are geometry with 3 dimensions inside a computer. Live action is also a 3dimensional reality as is stop motion. So I agree that 3D films are a good match for 3D reality in either live action or the computer.

The only true 2D movie is probably traditional animation where the art is conceived flat and projected flat.

Cinematography is the art of converting 3D (live action) into 2D (flat movies). In the past it was the art of converting a colorful world into one of black and white.

When we learn to do it properly, the future cinematographers will be experts in taking a 3D reality and creating a 3D fantasy world inside the theater.

Today we have a clash and this is what I think you object to so strongly and where I can agree...

Movies created using the skills of 2D cinematography/editing/composition which also have stereoscopic space applied can look broken. Like a painting turned into a sculpture.

If 3D movies are bad it is because we have not yet developed the skill to create good ones. When I first started learning to drive it was not a pleasant ride for others. That did not mean that the car was faulty.

Looking forward to the day you enjoy another spatial movie.

phil mcnally
(Stereoscopic Supervisor at Dreamworks Animation)
These are my personal points of view and not specific to my work at Dreamworks.

Ebert: I should sue.

That would be the Dem thing to do, don'tcha know? You know how we love frivolous litigation, (ex)-Senator


wow, i've got to wait until october to see this film in the uk-it's a painfully long time to wait! the 2 week gap between Wall-e released in the US and UK was hard enough to tolerate.

many people have said this is pixar's most emotional film yet, would agree with that Roger? i couldn't hold back a tear twice at Wall-e and i can't for the life of me stop crying EVERY SINGLE TIME i see the Monsters Inc ending and that heartbreaking Toy Story 2 song. let me just clarify i am a 21 year old of my mates laughed at me in Wall-e. am i to suffer even more humilation at the hands of this film?!

During "Monsters Vs. Aliens", I took off my glasses for a few minutes. Yes, the picture was blurrier, but I just wanted to settle back and enjoy the film.

I'm disappointed UP will be in 3-D. Instead of watching the movie, you're waiting for something to fly out of the screen (nobody really cares about depth of field). And a few days later, you still remember the film, not the visual stunts.

>>I see in your response to "TheFilmist" that you are passing judgment on Happy Feet 2 in 3D, a movie still in production. Shouldn't you wait to see the first 8 minutes before drawing conclusions?

While I agree, I don't think he was referring to the film itself, but the 3D phenomenon which, I also agree, is a mistake. I mean, what is this, 1995?

Personally, as far as Happy Feet 2 goes, I'd like to hear Roger's thoughts about the first film, given how much he's enjoyed Miller's previous films.


"I imagine a day when the opening feature at Cannes is an interactive experience."

The Alamo Drafthouse has interactive experiences going on already at their theaters. My sister worked there, and I've seen some things there: I've seen two guys with microphones do a live comedic commentary of "The Lost Boys" a la "Mystery Science Theater 3000", but more interactive was a Braveheart parody movie that required all attendees to wear scottisch outfits (some of them were dirty jokes, like a fake lamb attached to the front...never mind) that also had musical aspects that had dances for the audience to perform and drinking games (the Alamo Drafthouse is a theater that serves food and alcohol.)

Ebert: That's not interactive. It's participatory.

i'm sorry. were you saying something? i was having trouble taking my eyes off the fabulous picture of the woman with the incredible, um, you know, in the adorable black dress. go ahead. i'll listen this time. looks like tippi hedren from that angle. i - uh - um - oh. your name again, sir?

Yes, what I meant is "none of the Pixar films have a female lead character, not a major character. There's a big difference telling the story from the female's perspective and having a female contributing to the unfolding of the lead male's story." thank you Georgette. And of course Pixar is far from the only company guilty of this. I too am discouraged by how dismal movies are in the U.S. for female characters. We have the female as witness to the events,and/or the victim, and the the brain-dead vacuous romantic comedy characters.Most films that are not romantic comedies have a token female or two. Of course many have written much more eloquently than I about this subject. Check out Women in Hollywood,an excellent blog if anyone is interested in this subject. I am no longer a young woman and I am impatient with the sorry state of women's issues and as it pertains to the topic of this blog, how we are portrayed in the cinema. What think you about this Mr. Ebert? I would love to see you address this, although most men do not seem to consider this to be topic of value, as reflected by the men who responded to my post.

natalie wrote on May 14, 2009 11:28 AM - "It's funny that there is criticism out there that most of Pixar's leads are male when their inspiration -- Hayao Miyazaki -- produces epics with strong female leads."

Which speaks volumes about Pixar given what they "don't" take from their inspiration; as Miyazaki's films do indeed reflect the filmmaker's feminism - his protagonists are often strong, independent girls or young women.

"Most of Miyazaki's characters are dynamic, capable of change, and not easily caricatured into traditional good-evil dichotomies. Many menacing characters have redeeming features, and are not firmly defined as antagonists. In Princess Mononoke, Lady Eboshi destroys the forest for industrial raw materials without the concerns for animals' life; however lepers and former prostitutes that she shelters have great respect for her. The film culminates in reconciliation, rather than the vanquishing of some irredeemable evil. Miyazaki stated in Spirited Away, "the heroine [is] thrown into a place where the good and bad dwell together ... She manages not because she has destroyed the “evil,” but because she has acquired the ability to survive."

Miyazaki has explained that the lack of clearly defined good and evil is because of his views of the 21st century as a complex time, where old norms no longer are true and need to be re-examined. Simple stereotypes cannot be used, even in children's films. However, even though Miyazaki sometimes feels pessimistic about the world, he prefers to show children a positive world view instead." - Wiki

Ie: Pixar is American, and the studio mindset is male.

In Pixar's defense however, my issue with them is basically limited to the supporting role given female characters in their films - as otherwise I loved Wall-E and the Incredibles! (despite "super mom" getting on my nerves.)

Note: if you're a woman and you've chosen not to have children (Marie waves!) there's nothing out there for you as female (vicariously speaking) except characters who are: husband hunting, a hooker, wall flower, misery aunt or villain. Whereas James Bond is NOT married and he does NOT have kids - and yet look at what he gets to do, eh?

phil mcnally wrote on May 14, 2009 12:57 PM - "When we learn to do it properly, the future cinematographers will be experts in taking a 3D reality and creating a 3D fantasy world inside the theater."

Speaking for myself, the more "real" an environment gets, the easier it becomes to wander off and explore it thanks to various elements now drawing my attention away from the story. Once you guys perfect 3D and recreate a fantasy world inside a theater, I'm going to resent being dragged away from something "I" found interesting. I'm going to resent the filmmaker making choices for me, after initially introducing me to a world which felt like one I had the freedom to move around in. So too, resent having things I'm not interested in shoved in my face - for deciding what you want me to interact with. Isn't this cool? Isn't this awesome? What if it's not? What then?

In an effort to recreate reality, you end up playing God with my imagination - and I do not have a poverty of it, Phil. It's because I can imagine SO much, that I get so frustrated whenever something or someone else winds-up doing too much of my thinking for me.

The creeping fog effect in Coraline for example, was really cool. I could have sat there for 30 minutes just watching it roll over various forms and textures - as that interested me, as an Artist. Whenever the camera moved OFF the fog, or panned up to Coraline's face, I got angry. I wanted to grab the freakin' camera and pull it back down to the fog - as I didn't care about the story anymore at that point.

In real life, if you were to mentally wander off every time you observed spatial relationships, you'd never hear a word anyone said. In "reality" we actually do the exact opposite of what 3D is aiming to do - we ignore it. We ignore what would otherwise be too many stimuli, too many distractions. It's the only way to focus.

3D will indeed engage the viewer - but at a cost. Imo, something else will have to turn off, in order to experience it. And I think it's going to be curiosity, as the desire to explore what you can see would ironically get in the way of the story. You'd have to turn off half your brain.

And so you're describing (such as I conceive it) what for me, would be akin to smoking a huge bong. I'd just be sitting there like a wide-eyed 2 year old gazing at everything around me and marveling at how trippy it all is - and then getting really cranky when you moved the bright shinny red ball away; as I wasn't done playing with that, dude! You know..?

Note: For what it's worth I liked "Flushed Away" and "Kung-Fu Panda". So I don't have anything personally against Dreamworks Animation. And if people want to go see a 3D film, I certainly don't begrudge anyone their pleasures. To each her own.

Rather, from where I'm standing, it's just another nail in the coffin of storytelling I can relate to, for serving to increasingly shift the focus onto "how" you see a story as opposed to broadening the parameters of what that story can be.

Ie: I wish studios and filmmakers would evolve first, before then trying to push the evolution of their medium.

Ebert: My headline. The Fifth Dimension, I believe.

From "Up Up And Away". You're right, my mistake. Still, it would have been such a surprise if you actually liked electronica. I like movie scores, so it would have been a fair trade-off.

Hi Roger! I'm from Venezuela and I'm looking forward to watching this movie very soon :) if you are curious about the region of my country which is featured in this movie we call it "La Gran Sabana", you can look it up at wikipedia or you can also try this very nice website -->

Marie's Wiki: However, even though Miyazaki sometimes feels pessimistic about the world, he prefers to show children a positive world view instead.

Yes, Marie, which also explains why Miyazaki's works almost always have an abundance of greenery, or an affinity with nature, all done in the essence of simple storytelling. Even the very urban Studio Ghibli animation Whispers of the Heart seems to pay him a nod by way of the song Country Road; as well as Only Yesterday by way of returning to the fields (veggies taste best when picked fresh!)

His works resonate sweetly because they primarily deal with matters of the heart and emotions (without being maudlin in the process). And, he uses nostalgia to balance pessimistic feelings that we more or less have within us. A return to former things, where everything is quiet (My Neighbor Totoro), untethered (Porco Rosso), natural- as in natural manifestations (Spirited Away), mythical (Laputa: Castle in the Sky), and easy for those who are enterprising (Kiki's Delivery Service). You will notice, too, that the jingles stay with you long after the viewing. Our neighbor, the Japanese, are such masters with this. Sample this and this.

Ebert: That's not interactive. It's participatory.

Right. Thanks.


"I imagine a day when the opening feature at Cannes is an interactive experience."

Mike Figgis did something that was kind of like that, but not exactly. He did a live audio mix for his movie, "Timecode", which was a 90 minute movie done in one uninterrupted take with four split-screen quadrants with sounds dictating where to watch the screen in real time(earthquakes were on cue simultaneously, so the audience would know it was all in real time, actors all reacting together; one can't assume one camera shot has anything to do with the other, as the surrealist Bunuel and Dali film exploited; for fun, with every cut in movies, I like to imagine different times of the action taking place, even though the movie wants you to conveniently imagine it's all happening in real time, or something like that.


"I imagine a day when the opening feature at Cannes is an interactive experience."

I forgot the link to the Mike Figgis live audio mix of "Timecode."

By Marie Haws on May 14, 2009 8:33 PM
It's because I can imagine SO much, that I get so frustrated whenever something or someone else winds-up doing too much of my thinking for me.

Hi Marie
From what you say I feel books are the best option for you as I pointed out the technique of movie making is one huge and enjoyable gimmick that has the sole purpose of showing you how someone else has imagined the story. You go to the theater to see the directors version.

Taking it further, reading a book is to experience the authors version. Only your own imagined stories are truly personal.

3D is no different. It is merely a technique that is either handled skillfully or not. All stories can be told with it or without it.

phil mcnally

Mr. Ebert,

I can't wait to read your review of the latest Hayao Miyazaki film, "Ponyo". I saw it in Japan last year and it almost destroyed me.

I was very disappointed to see so many Japanese moviegoers shrug it off as "okay".

Akira Kurosawa reportedly considered Miyazaki's "Totoro" one of the greatest films in existence. I'm of the opinion that Miyazaki's latest is clearly his best work, and Japan, with its complete dearth of film critics (in short, film distribution is handled by a branch of the mass transit authority, which also happens to run all the TV networks and magazine publishers), was simply not prepared to realize its greatness.

As someone who has seen the Sistine Chapel and the Mona Lisa, I feel no lack of confidence at all in declaring "Ponyo" one of the greatest (terrifying, beautiful) *things* I have ever seen.

Seriously, you could show it to a DOG and it would learn something tangible by the end.

A friend of mine was in France last week and he said Ponyo is playing in cinemas there. You should go see it while you're there! If it's dubbed in French it might be even better!

I could understand an argument that with computer animation, the original objects are not 2D images as they are in traditional animation, but 3D sculptures. So a 3D film of computer animation is a more true representation of the animator's art.

But to appreceate a sculpture you have to move your head to look around it. This runs counter to film language where everything you're shown is determined by the director. We don't have the option of popping our head in the scene and looking around the corner at the monster hiding there. So I'd say I'd have to agree with you that 3D is not necessary. I can't imagine how in the language of film a director could possibly use it in an artistic way.

The shot I saw that most makes me want to see this film, is in a trailer that I've only seen once. As the balloon-lofted house rises, it passes between a skyskraper and the sun. The shot is from inside a room of the building, and as the balloons obfuscate the sun, the room is filled with a joyous burst of kaleidoscopic, shifting colors, which made me gasp, tear up, and intone: "I have to see this movie." Pixar always pleases. It would be interesting to see a collaboration with Miyazaki, wouldn't it? Or, would that be too much of a good thing?

As per "Star Trek," I enjoyed my time watching it, even though I had a few twinges. Then, when I went home, I kept thinking about it, like a cow ruminating its cud. Finally, at two or so in the morning, I had my epiphany: I felt cheated. Sure, it looked great, was well acted, had good pace, but it was missing growth. The opening sequence was, to me, the best part of the movie, even if it does have one of the fastest labor-to-delivery scenes of all time.
Cut to Kirk as a punk kid (nine or ten?) wrecking a 1960's model Corvette (talk about your collector's items. It would have to be a 150, 200 year old vehicle-GM sure built 'em to last in those days!) and listening to what would probably be considered ultra-classic rock (Beastie Boys? Really? How last century...). He drives into what looks like the Grand Canyon, but, since I live only a three-hour drive away from the GC, I know it is impossible, so I think it was a really big rock quarry. All to say, he's a punk kid.

Cut to him picking a fight with Starfleet cadets in a dive bar, being a punk kid with no direction and a chip on his shoulder and blah blah blah. Short inspirational speech by a dude with an awesome voice. thirty seconds of moodiness, followed by an act which, I suppose, was supposed to symbolize putting away childish things and becoming a man. Cut to his last year at the academy, where you see the result of his changing the "Kobiyashi Maru" test, without the fun of seeing him "Mission: Impossible" the rig. Or, the satisfaction of seeing him grow as a cadet. Or a person, for that matter. But that's OK, because we can see by his maverick attitude and smug self-satisfaction that he hasn't changed a bit from the snotty twerp who drove an antique into the "New Grand Canyon of Iowa: We Gots More Than Corn, Now!"

No, what he needs to grow is a crisis of unimaginable proportion. So, he stows away and somehow becomes the third in command of the flagship of the fleet! Highly illogical, as one character might say.

That's not even accounting for the boring villain, or the mysterious "Red Matter." What is that, anyways? I've heard you complain, correctly, about the science of black holes, and space elevators, but what about the stuff that creates a black hole in this movie? And how did the smaller, one man ship from the future cause more damage to the Romulan ship (before the "red matter" kicked in, of course) than the larger "Kelvin" did, since both rammed at about the same spot. Hell, why was Spock the only one who could deliver the stuff in the first place? And, hey, if the Romulan miners are so smart as to figure out a plan of revenge, why didn't they just go back, warn the planet earlier, and take care of the star before it went supernova? Because, then, we might actually have gotten a movie with actual character development, I suppose. Instead, we get a starship captain who didn't even graduate before he was awarded command, so the geeks would be happy. A promotion, I would understand. But captain? I'm not in the military, but I do understand rank structure somewhat. There is a reason that it takes years to build up to command. If nothing else, it's helpful to know what forms to fill out when the ship needs more toilet paper...

Kren Bowers wrote on May 14, 2009 7:11 PM - "Yes, what I meant is "none of the Pixar films have a female lead character, not a major character. There's a big difference telling the story from the female's perspective and having a female contributing to the unfolding of the lead male's story." thank you Georgette. And of course Pixar is far from the only company guilty of this. I too am discouraged by how dismal movies are in the U.S. for female characters. We have the female as witness to the events, and/or the victim, and the the brain-dead vacuous romantic comedy characters. Most films that are not romantic comedies have a token female or two. Of course many have written much more eloquently than I about this subject. Check out Women in Hollywood, an excellent blog if anyone is interested in this subject. I am no longer a young woman and I am impatient with the sorry state of women's issues and as it pertains to the topic of this blog, how we are portrayed in the cinema. What think you about this Mr. Ebert? I would love to see you address this, although most men do not seem to consider this to be topic of value, as reflected by the men who responded to my post."

I'd enjoy seeing it addressed too, Kren.

Although the blog is open to all regardless of gender, it nevertheless has one and it's male. You can see it reflected in the "mental math" around you, the comments posted by men often containing observations and subsequent conclusions that miss the bigger picture for want of considering additional emotional factors while crunching the data; ie: their focus tends to be narrower and as a result, more concerned with understanding how systems work while debating various arguments in support of a point of view - giving rise then, to the competitive male dynamic. It's most pronounced in Science or God related topics and manifests itself in what I like to describe as "trying to nail Roger's jello to a tree". :)

And so imo you're right when you say most men don't seem to be interested in the topic you've raised. I've raised it myself in various forms on and off, in this or that thread since I began contributing to the blog; only for it to be met with dead silence.

But I think I know why...

Ever hear of a 3 part German documentary called "Beautiful Minds: A Voyage into the Brain"? It's by ColorFIELD. In an attempt to better understand "how our brains work" the world of savants and the autistic is explored, revealing new and amazing discoveries on a genetic level, especially regarding the differences between men and women and how we process information. Our brains have a gender - and we are not the same (while still being equal and necessary to the other's survival: men have one lens, we have the other and together, it makes a pair of glasses.)

The irony is that women can see that, and men often can't or if they do, don't want to admit it aloud for thinking it's akin to losing a point. :)

Note: to his credit, Roger knew he couldn't explain HOW his wife Chaz knew he was "still there" inside his body back when he was seriously ill (at the hospital) but he could wrap his head around "her" being able to do that - however mundane it struck another.

I tried posting about this 2 times actually in another thread, but the spam filter either didn't like the link, or their site didn't allow linking to a blog; it's in English too, by the way. Part three of the film is "Beautiful Minds: A Matter of Gender" which revealed that we do indeed as women have different skill sets, and Chaz was likely using one of them.

Part one of "a matter of gender", can be found at you tube. I'm cutting the link in half in case I need to trick the spam filter: (then add) watch?v=WjDPx3u-UPw

At any rate Kren, if you want to discuss the topic of gender disparity as it applies to roles for women, I can't speak for Roger, but I'll explore it with you! I'm not young anymore either, and I too have lost patience with the powers that be, at least in North America.

Robert of Taoyuan City, Taiwan wrote on May 15, 2009 10:20 AM - "His works resonate sweetly because they primarily deal with matters of the heart and emotions (without being maudlin in the process)."

Yes, exactly; sweet but not sickly so. It's also ironic that the work is Japanese, given how huge the hentai market is; the darker side of animation which is essentially violent child porn. And why his films stand out even more - once you have that crap to measure them with. I confess, I was astonished. I didn't think it was possible to find an animated Japanese film without little girls being raped by monsters. Or at the very least, including a standard "panty shot" alla Sailor Moon and hence its cult following amongst male university students.

See what happens when you let women inside the blog, Roger? :)

P.S. I'm glad to hear you're enjoying yourself over at Cannes.


I think the reason I find it hard to understand your reasoning is that I rarely if ever go into a movie thinking about how a movie will appeal to my gender, but I almost always (except perhaps in cases of comedy, parody) go in expecting the film to appeal to my humanity - to make me care about the characters, their struggles, etc, regardless of which sex they happen to be.

One of my favorite aspects of Pixar's films is their consistent appeal to what makes us human.

Reply to: KBowers: "There's a big difference telling the story from the female's perspective and having a female contributing to the unfolding of the lead male's story."

So, we're brainstorming a movie that will open at Cannes and take the world by storm.

Now here's the problem. Most of the writers are men. If you want to create a movie told from the woman's point of view.... the guys might need some help. Guidelines, if not actual rules.

What's important? Cate Blanchet played the villain's role in "Crystal Skull." Was that enough? Or does the motivation have to be changed?

Reply to: I too am discouraged by how dismal movies are in the U.S. for female characters.

Go into a video store, or check the menu on Hulu. Most movies are dismal.

Reply to: I am impatient with the sorry state of women's issues, how we are portrayed in the cinema. ... men do not seem to consider this to be topic of value, as reflected by the men who responded to my post.

sorry. We haven't quite worked out the rules for responding to comments as opposed to the original blog entry.

There are some recognized genres;

(1) A male detective solves a crime.
(2) A young man mourns the death of his father and takes his place in the family business.
(3) A solitary man fights the forces of Evil.

Now, to write a movie from a female perspective:

(1) A young girl goes through a crisis where she realizes her mother should be treated with more respect and they become best friends.

(2) A mother tries to keep her daughter from marrying the wrong man.

(3) A woman encounters a monster that scares us silly, and survives.

A movie should be based on the Hero's Journey. The hero's life is full of obstacles. Each time he or she overcomes an obstacle, they change in a significant way. In Titanic, Rose realizes that she can't fulfil her Mother's dream of marrying into a wealthy family.

Is the journey of a Heroine different from the journey of a male Hero? In what important ways? is there bonding instead of competition and conflict?

Casablanca came down to a single moral choice: who gets on the plane with Ilsa? Her husband? Or the man who holds the letters of transit?

I was working on a story. A guy at college sleeps with a lot of women. Five years after he graduates, the government comes after him for child support. One of the women became pregnant, but she never wanted her daughter to know how she was conceived or have any contact with her biological father. It's not until the child applies to college, and circumstances require her to go to her biological father for help, that the man has to face that fact that he doesn't want anything to do with his daughter. Until he meets her and gets to know her, of course. If that plot is told from a woman's perspective, how is it different? What changes?

You can't expect Hollywood to write great movies with great Heroines in the lead role... unless you can explain in detail how the rest of the movie needs to be different. We understand that James Bond does whatever it takes to protect the interests of Great Britain. Is that enough for a Heroine?

Hope that's enough of a reply. While I agree that many women would love to see more movies with Heroines, unless there's a story worth telling, it won't happen. the Lord of the Rings with female Hobbits? Lara Croft instead of Indiana Jones? A female Captain of the Enterprise? obviously, Hollywood doesn't know how to do this. You can't just plug in Ripley instead of a male crew member, like Ridley Scott did. You need a plot that organically grows from your Heroine's journey in life.

All the militant feminists here might be interested to know that Pixar's Christmas 2011 release, The Bear and the Bow, will feature a female protagonist. It is also being helmed by a female director (Brenda Chapman) who is apparently basing the story on her real-life experiences with raising her daughter.

Happy now?

Hi Marie,

Hentai and Sailor Moon? (aarrgghh...)

Have you already seen The Tower of Druaga: Aegis of Uruk and its sequel The Sword of Uruk? I thought that maybe as an animator you might enjoy the visual beauty of this anime from Gonzo Studios. The story is a spin-off of the ancient tale of the Sumerian king Gilgamesh, though he is not the main protagonist. And yes, it has that panty shot at the very beginning in what looked like a perfunctory spoof of hentai; that's about it. The sequel and conclusion (Sword of Uruk) were a bit weak and disappointing, but what I found very enjoyable was the first-part journey (Aegis of Uruk).

Why are the Japanese so good at robotics? I have a theory that anime plays a no small part in the evolution of Japanese society. It's easy to conjecture this because of the constant, decades-long bombardment of anime over the Japanese youth. All those stories about mechas and robots surely were not just for entertainment value. In some ways, a society looks at itself through the movies it produces; and vice versa, it largely produces films of how it sees itself. I have no doubt that future historians will study us through the movies that we make. Anyway, back to the subject of the Japanese being good at robotics or some such topic on a similar vein, I wrote to Roger in his Answerman column about some of the wishes I have for the next Star Trek installment. I don't know if Roger will publish my Answerman comment, since not all letters make it to the Answerman Page or his Reader's Mail page. Just in case it doesn't, and since we're already on the topic, here are the last two paragrapsh of that letter:

... However, I realise, too, the fears of the very erudite Jim Emerson. The black hole of popcorn singularity is indeed looming overhead over this one. There is a sequence in Star Trek where Spock turns down the Vulcan Science Academy for the Federation. This scene seems to augur J. J. Abrams vision for the movie, of which brawn and adrenalin rule over intellect. It also seems to be a testimony to the director's vision of finding a path independent of previous Star Trek canon (parallel to Spock's resolve to be his half-human, half Vulcan self; to be himself contrary to what others expect). I cannot tell whether or not this is a good thing, In my humble opinion, to look for originality inside the Star Trek canon is a good thing; but Might over Intellect is bad, unless the franchise finds its original self that is only its own, and not Aliens, Starship Troopers, or Space 1999.

The film feels like a beginning of new things, in ground zero. A trilogy, perhaps. As such, I am of the opinion that one cannot rush yet into things. As a very simple Trekkie, I'm just happy in seeing an old friend revive (not that it died for me, anyway). For me, I guess, that is enough reason to love the film. I consider this a first step; but whether or not into the right direction, only my future self knows. I just hope that subsequent instalments after this one do not prove me wrong. I also wish that future Star Trek installments are able to spark the scientific curiosities in people. I have no doubt that a lot of current scientists found their way through inspirations in sci-fi movies. Sci-fi movies shouldn't only be about firepower, excitement and polemics in philosophy, they should also cater to the budding science geniuses waiting in the wings.

This is directed to Paramount, and I hope the studio sees this. A sidenote: I am not disparaging Starship Troopers, Aliens or Space 1999. I just happen to think that these exist in another universe from the one in Star Trek. No offence meant to their fan bases.

phil mcnally wrote on May 15, 2009 1:01 PM -

"Hi Marie, From what you say I feel books are the best option for you as I pointed out the technique of movie making is one huge and enjoyable gimmick that has the sole purpose of showing you how someone else has imagined the story. You go to the theater to see the directors version..."

Yes, people do indeed go to the theater to see a director's version of a story; which of course, is not to be confused with wanting to have a gimmick shoved down your throat while being told to like it or leave. It is possible to love movies as much as books Phil, and still resist the siren call to worship at the alter of 3D. :)

Again, if others want to see a film in 3D, okay dokie! To each their own. And I hope those who do, genuinely have a good time with it; I take no pleasure in the disappointment of another.

My personal issue with it, is that it tends to be a mentally invasive form of technology. A dislike I'd accounted for via "whenever something or someone else winds-up doing too much of my thinking for me" etc.

Ever see Dexter? I love Dexter! I love the camera angles and how they show a thing without showing too much; meaning you can imagine something even worse now, God bless 'em. How about "The Fall"? Have you seen that? That's a director's version of a story too - and yet your imagination can breathe through every frame. Tarsem Singh made a film that allowed my imagination to create a three-dimensional world for itself, inside my own head! It was awesome! Hell, a part of me is still wandering around the blue city and the infinite staircase and swimming with an elephant in the sea!

Don't let my Canadian dissident-mindedness trouble you, though. I was never going to jump on your 3D ship, but I wasn't trying to sink it either. I assume you're working on "How to Train Your Dragon" and wish you well with that project.

And better aim. :)

Marie, thank you for your very interesting post. I will check out the documentary you mention. Justin, I dare say you always see protaganists that ARE your gender, "so to make me care about the characters, their struggles, etc, regardless of which sex they happen to be." means they happen to be your sex. Check it out in the movies you watch, and see if I am correct.
Billy"Now here's the problem. Most of the writers are men." You then go into a long discussion of how to train men to make a "woman's" movie. I think perhaps the problem is that most movies that get produced are written by men. They are many women writers, they just have a much more difficult time getting movies produced.
Lets jsut have more movies written, directed and produced by women, and problem solved:-)

To Marie Haws and Kren,

I just want to say I am with you, fervently. I generally avoid crap in general, which probably includes a lot of the movies you are talking about, but the last Pixar movie I saw, "Ratatouille", I thought had a wonderful female character who outshined the male character--a bumbling moron, although the male rat was the lead--so, I'll give you that. She was tough, but feminine, and rode a motor bike and was independent. Mike Figgis who made "Leaving Las Vegas", which Roger picked as the best movie of the year, had a great character with Elizabeth Shue who gave the performance of her career--unexpectedly--playing a hooker. But he also made "Internal Affairs" which had another good female cop role played by Laurie Metcalf (from "Roseanne"); he's a feminist film maker for reasons you've described.

Just a week ago in the recent blog, Go Gently Into That Good Night, I wrote, in response to Roger saying he wouldn't like immortality:

"I think I'd like immortality if it could be with only me and the girl of my dreams."

Ebert: And what dreams are dreamed by the girl of your dreams?

"Art, making movies, becoming really famous for doing something great, and hopefully me-if not, we'll both have to make robot android copies of ourselves and let the robots have a go at it. Or so, she'll let me think."

I added that last part to say that if in immortality we didn't make it, that we'd both make robot copies of ourselves to let them have a go at it, which was a subversive way of saying maybe we ought to just have a fake relationship...illusion to despair.

You might make the argument that the world is too feminized (he doesn't mention movies, of course), if you are Bill Maher(go to 36 minutes into this);=663117234252∣=E56D53F70E7BAF22B4F3E56D53F70E7BAF22B4F3&FORM;=VIVR23 Sorry, for the 180 degree detour. Like or hate Bill Maher, he is the greatest communicator in politics. There are so many great liberal-political communicators, and I'd be interested to know who you think is the greatest woman liberal speaker in politics. I think it's Janeane Garofolo.

Reply to: think perhaps the problem is that most movies that get produced are written by men.

Actually, that isn't the problem at all.

The problem is that no one has made a move with female leads that teenage boys want to watch.

Reply to: They are many women writers, they just have a much more difficult time getting movies produced. Lets jsut have more movies written, directed and produced by women, and problem solved:-)

Nope. By itself, that wouldn't solve the problem. Several reasons.

Let me start with a woman, Susannah Grant, who was hired by Sony (Columbia) to write a script for a story that Julia Roberts wanted to do, about a woman named Erin Brockovich.

After working for 15 years, Grant was offered a chance to direct her own script. The result was "Catch and Release." She hired Jennifer Garner because a friend told her "Jennifer Garner is the actress version of you."

You're welcome to read Roger's review, but Grant makes the same mistake that most women make. She thinks a weak premise and story line "about a woman in real life" will make a successful movie.

Real life does NOT make a successful Hollywood movie. You need a Hero who struggles against overwhelming obstacles, and as a result, becomes stronger. Finds new ways to achieve success.

In "Catch and Release," the heroine was about to be married. Her fiance dies the day before the ceremony. At the end of the movie, she moves into the $7 million Malibu beach house of a photographer who obviously has no intention to ever settle down with one woman. the heroine learned nothing and changed nothing in her approach to life.

It doesn't matter whether the writer is a man or a woman. A weak script is a weak script.

It's extremely difficult to write a great script about a Heroine because in real life, women like to nest. They like to make friends and help each other.

And second, Roger is the only one here who can walk into the offices of Creative Artists Agency or William Morris, and get a movie made from an original script. Roger can't change himself into a woman.

But.... tell him what you want to see, what would make you happy. I have a couple.

(1) Women LOVE to be scared. Women went back to watch "Jaws" four or five times, even though it was a story about "3 men in a boat." OK, maybe the shark was female, even though they called it Bruce.

For many women, the scarier the movie, the better. They loved the idea of the Titanic breaking in half and the heroine being thrown into the icy water. They loved seeing her suffer... in a movie.

(2) Today's women want the heroine to be the President of the Company, or a CEO. The premise of "His Girl Friday".. or Charlie's Angels... isn't what women want to see.

Most studios won't invest $120 million in a female-oriented film. The assumption is, women will go to see a film with "3 men in a boat," but teenage boys will NOT buy tickets for a movie about "3 women in a boat." So, the script has to be BETTER. It has to be powerful enough to attract men aged 14 to 26. That's the only way a studio will... well, the budget of "Star Trek" was at least $120 million, possibly as much as $140 or $165 million. Paramount thought it was a wise investment because they own "Star Trek," in the same way that Time-Warner owns Superman and Batman and Disney owns the Pirates of the Caribbean.

Maybe the secret is to start with a Theme Park attraction, like Cinderella's castle, and build. Some of the most successful movies come from using established characters, like "Mask of Zorro" and "Aladdin" and Godzilla.

I'm losing my train of thought... but the current problem is, teenage boys don't want to go to movies with Heroines as the lead characters. Women don't know how to write such scripts any more than men do. If they did, it would not still be a problem. Every time a woman screenwriter turns in a weak script, it convinced studio execs that "only action movies" are worth the big budgets. And they ignore the fact that James Cameron took out everything that didn't fulfill a young girl's fantasy when he made "Titanic."

Jonathan wrote on May 16, 2009 2:35 AM - "All the militant feminists here might be interested to know.... Happy now?"

That depends upon your definition of a militant feminist, and whether or not you meant to slap anyone down with it. :)

My personal of a Feminist is someone who includes men in their thinking and world view; as for me, it's not about wanting women to run the planet - that would simply recreate the problem of disparity while being guilty of reverse sexism - and what’s fair about that?

Whereas put us together like a pair of glasses and now we cover one another's blind spots. And I don't think a militant would embrace the spirit of co-operation that entails.

RE: going off-topic:

This is Roger's blog and as such, he establishes the topic. But he is aware of the organic nature of conversation, how one thought can lead to another and for that reason, I've seen him allow for a walking bass line or two. Myself, I try and account for why I’m reaching over "here" and pulling something into the center of the room so others can see it too; it's often about providing context and how I’ve arrived at a point of view via show & tell. And if you're restricted to only to the portion of the field that men can see, well gee... that strikes me as attending "The Conference of World Affairs" and missing the point – and I don’t think Roger does. Not according to this:

"Why is this week like lifeblood for me? Once we settle into our life’s careers, most of us charge the line with our heads down. I have a tendency, for example, to think the world revolves around movies. Once a year at the Conference, I am forced to think on subjects not of my own choosing. I get to talk to people from other worlds." - Roger Ebert.

Every once in a while, things not of his choosing come up; again, owing to the organic nature of it all. This is one of those times. But it still relates to film - it just happens to touch upon deeper social issues too. And if those issues don't directly impact men posting in here, it does not make them any less worthy of note or discussion. And I hope Roger will view that with same spirit he displays in the above quote. :)

Kren Bowers wrote on May 16, 2009 11:26 AM - "Marie, thank you for your very interesting post. I will check out the documentary you mention."

The entire film is hosted on youtube and runs about 3 hrs. I found it fascinating and I learned so much, in the process!

Keith Carrizosa wrote on May 16, 2009 5:03 PM - "I'd be interested to know who you think is the greatest woman liberal speaker in politics. I think it's Janeane Garofolo."

I like her too! Basically, I gravitate towards those who include everyone when they speak, be they male or female. It's the underlying message that matters, not whether the speaker can pee standing up; chuckle! Case in point, Colm Dempsey, a police officer in Ireland:

What an admirable thing to do! Here's an example of someone trying to make a meaningful difference in the world - and the makings of a great film too! I’d certainly find that interesting and it’s an example of what I'd like to see, as a filmgoer. More of that from men, and simply to better balance the landscape so it's not tilted quite so much in one direction; case in point "Ratatouille" – loved the animation, and the tale of an underdog (aka rat) trying to be chef! However...

Gosh, women are so much smarter, aren't they? Guys are just idiots who can barely walk. BLECH! I didn't like the treatment of the human male character in that film. I saw him as a victim of "over-compensating" political correctness and an insulting caricature of the hapless male. Remember Juno and Michael Cera? He played Paulie, Juno's boy friend. I think that's a much better approach to take - as what makes Juno smart does not come at Paulie's expense. He's not been made "dumber" so she can shine brighter.

Bill Hays wrote on May 15, 2009 10:52 PM - "Is the journey of a Heroine different from the journey of a male Hero? In what important ways? Is there bonding instead of competition and conflict?"

Good question. Best answer? Whatever holds you back or tries to keep you down, is the obstacle to surmount and it defines your journey; although it's fair to say that for women, economics plays an important part owing to what poverty exposes us to. As for bonding, we're more inclined to share the planet, share resources - but so as to avoid conflict and ensure our own survival. If I'm not at war with my neighbor I can make plans for a future, eh? We do compete for men of course, and that can get nasty at times, but generally speaking women are kinder to one another. It's empathy.

And so what stands in the way is less so another woman, than a man. The deeply entrenched systems he's got in place to favor his sex. I see men as the source of many of the world's problems; but only some - and that's an important note, so don't miss it. As others are not only a part of the solution, but in some cases, working "harder" than women; that Irish cop is doing more for the planet than Paris Hilton ever will, eh? But to the extent there's a problem it needs to be addressed, which extends to films too. And in a perfect world...

Ever see the series Battlestar Galactica? The new one? It was one of the most balanced shows I've ever watched. It doesn't ignore gender but rather, expands the parameters of what "each" gender can be. Characters were subsequently rich and deeply layered for being able to move through a script where it’s all up for grabs – no one owns humanity, no gender bias. And in that sense, television is ahead of film making and why I often refer to examples of it. It’s partly the measuring stick by which I can see things are indeed worse for women in film.

A woman can be many things, so too a man - things you can find in one another. That's the point; no one owns the Joseph Campbell journey. For the hero is an individual who may or may not have this or that gender affilated trait. And imo, when we’re allowed to be people "first" it makes for the most exciting, dynamic and satisfying storytelling.

I loved Tahmoh Penikett - "Helo" on Battlestar Galactica and his relationship with "Sharon" actress Grace Park. The balance was PERFECT. Each had his/her strengths and weaknesses and they weren’t stereotypical ones. Each had a journey, a character arch, separate and yet combined; they were epic. It was also totally hot. :) It's a level of equality you rarely see in film - where sex sells from the male point of view, and why my gender so often has to save the world half-naked while running in heels and men get to be James Bond. Whereas on Battlestar Galactica, and with roots going back as far as Shakespeare's Hotspur, another favorite "Starbuck" was played by a woman; Katee Sackhoff. And she got to wear sensible shoes and still enjoy sex with men. :)

FYI: there was no Christianity in the fictional Battlestar Galactica universe. Just spirituality. Gee, do you think there’s a connection?

On one hand I am really excited to see this movie. partially because stylistically i love zeppelins, balloons and biplanes. along with the theme of flight not in the sense of rockets which break gravity but rather floating which more or less ignores gravity. Of course I still haven't seen the movie but I am really excited.

on the other hand.

it would appear that this post has devolved into the already over-argued not enough women in film x. my personal opinion if want to see a movie a certain way with certain themes you should make it yourself and invest your own time and money in it. if not i figure you just don't care that much and you are just wasting my time.

Bill Hays wrote on May 16, 2009 11:10 PM - "It's extremely difficult to write a great script about a Heroine because in real life, women like to nest. They like to make friends and help each other."

You need to see a film called "Precious". :)

Robert of Taoyuan City, Taiwan wrote on May 16, 2009 3:29 AM - "Have you already seen The Tower of Druaga: Aegis of Uruk and its sequel The Sword of Uruk?"

No, I haven't - but I usually get stuff from my library (better on DVD than a download; smile ) and they don't have it. They do have all the Star Trek movies - and I agree about the new one, Sci-fi movies shouldn't only be about firepower. As what's the difference then between that and a car chase/gun fight scene eh?

Note: I thought the first Alien film was the best. And while I continued to enjoy Sigourney Weaver as "Ripley" it wasn't quite the same. Mind you, different directors eh?

jonan wrote on May 17, 2009 9:44 PM - "it would appear that this post has devolved into the already over-argued not enough women in film x. my personal opinion if want to see a movie a certain way with certain themes you should make it yourself and invest your own time and money in it. if not i figure you just don't care that much and you are just wasting my time."

"It would appear that this post has devolved into the already over-argued not enough Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Gays in film x. my personal opinion if want to see a movie a certain way with certain themes you should make it yourself and invest your own time and money in it. if not i figure you just don't care that much and you are just wasting my time."

Sometimes, in order to change things for the better, you have to speak out and rattle some cages...

Sometimes, it's harder for having more to surmount...

Especially when others don't care enough because they've never had to, and consider it a waste of a time to even bring it up. And that being the case, I'm surprised you found the time to mention the topic in your post - as clearly, it doesn't interest you. :)

You are seriously deluded If you think that 3D is only a marketing gimmick. The fact is that 3D is the future of the industry. It is naive to think otherwise.

You talk about 3D simply giving us something unnecessary to look at.
What makes you think that the neccesary image stops at 2D.
The simple fact is that 3D creates depth in the image and enhances believability. How is that a gimmick?

I dont understand why anyone would choose to watch UP in 2D over 3D. You're watching exactly the same movie, only experiencing less of it.

Reply to: On one hand I am really excited to see this movie. partially because stylistically i love zeppelins, balloons and biplanes. on the other hand.
it would appear that this post has devolved into the already over-argued not enough women in film

No, it's just that not enough of us have seen "Up."

And the trailer for "Up" pretty much hides the fact that Carl fell in love with a tomboy named Ellie.

Reply to: Two children named Carl and Ellie meet and discover they share the same dream of someday being daring explorers. Ellie and Carl grow up, have a courtship, marry, are happy together, and grow old. (Ellie doesn't even have a voice credit). It's shown by Docter in a lovely sequence, without dialogue, that deals with the life experience in a way that is almost never found in family animation. This interlude is poetic and touching.

that's NOT the movie I saw in the trailer. Not even close.

I was thinking about George Lucas. He wanted to be a filmmaker in the way Ellie wanted to be a daring explorer. But look what happened to George.

(1) He makes "American Graffiti" and shoots for 29 nights in San Rafael. The National Society of Film Critics awards Best Screenplay.
The Oscars? Nominations for Best Director, Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress.

After the financial success of Easy Rider (1969), American Graffiti was one of five films that Universal Studios decided to allow young filmmakers to produce. The other four "semi-independent" low-budget films were: The Hired Hand (1971); The Last Movie (1971); Taking Off (1971); and Silent Running (1972).

"American Graffiti" was previewed in San Francisco, on a Sunday morning with Universal Studios rep Ned Tanen in attendance. Tanan was not impressed and called it "unreleasable". Francis Ford Coppola, enraged at the comment, offered to buy the film from Universal while the exhausted, burned-out and ill George Lucas watched in shock.
(2) And then, "Star Wars."
(3) And then, "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
(4) And then, "Willow." (where the streak ended?)

Carl and Ellie's story seems rather underwhelming by comparison.

Reply to: Is the journey of a Heroine different from the journey of a male Hero? What stands in the way is less so another woman, than a man. The deeply entrenched systems he's got in place to favor his sex.

My point is, there's no reason why a small, low-budget, semi-independent film can't be nominated for Best Picture and Best Director... if you know what you're doing.

Find a story about a female that is so powerful, it will attract teenage boys to come see it. And that's going to be a challenge. Probably a coming of age movie that offers real insights into the problems of being a teenager.

Would you go see "Spider-Girl" instead of "Spider-Man?" Supergirl instead of "Superman Returns." A Lord of the Rings where Aragorn was played by Sigourney Weaver?

"Alien" did it. And then, a string of disasters. Halle Berry in "Catwoman."

"Raiders" and "Jaws" both showed the right way to do it. Start with a "thing." The Ark of the Covenant, a shark feeding on swimmers. Grab the audience with a powerful opening scene, so they want to see what's going to happen... and give them an ending that answers the original questions.

Theoretically, given a powerful story, it shouldn't matter whether it's 3 Heroes or 3 Heroines in the boat.

In "Up," you've got a retired balloon salesman who wants to explore South America. Is there a powerful reason why we should stick around to see if he accomplishes his goal? Plus, there's the small drawback that he appears to have kidnapped an 8 year-old Wilderness Explorer, and the boy's parents have probably gone to the police.

Reply to: my personal opinion if want to see a movie a certain way with certain themes you should make it yourself and invest your own time and money in it.

Exactly. And you do that by writing a script.

A script that works. That's all it takes.

Any young filmmaker who makes a movie about kidnapping a woman, killing her and cutting up her body... is a waste of everybody's time. IMO.

To Robert of Taoyuan City, Taiwan, I cannot thank you enough for your mention of the novel "21 Balloons". I read this book as a young boy and, for reasons I would never be able to put into words, I have been thinking about it and desperately trying to recall the title of it for about a year now...roughly coinciding with when I first heard of "UP." As soon as I saw that title, "21 Balloons", in your post, tears came to my eyes. That book (as well as Tom Sawyer!) meant so much to me as a child and then over the years I simply forgot about it. In the past year I've had a vague recollection of a story that took place on Krakatoa, and a huge volcanic eruption, and diamonds, and, of course, the balloons...but I could not come up with a name.
I dearly wish that my own boyhood copy was musty and browned and sitting upon my shelf. But now that I finally have the correct title at hand I will purchase a new copy, and begin reading it to my daughters each night. Thank you truly.

And Roger...thanks to you for having the some of the most well-read and thoughtful commenters of any blog on the web...which is a testament to the quality of the blog itself.


Roger, I really adore you and your reviews. You are my favorite critic. But could you PLEASE not give away major plot points WITHOUT WARNING?

I have been very careful to skip over parts of reviews that reveal too much of the plot of UP. I want to be surprised when I see the movie at the theater. I read reviews and comments mainly to gauge the reaction to the movie. But in your comments to the comments here you pulled a fast one and revealed a huge surprise about the bird that I WISH I HADN'T READ and sorely wish I didn't know was going to happen.

Think how your own movie experience would have been if you knew in advance all the plot points that you reveal so freely. At least WARN before doing so. As a famous critic once wrote:

"Critics have no right to play spoiler."


I very much agree about the 3D argument. Some movie I have seen recently make good use out of it in an actual immersive way (Coraline) and a fun, gimmicky use (My Bloody Valentine 3D). The problem is that many studios are likely to ride it as a gimmick, like how many companies rode the CGI animation bandwagon as a gimmick. I CAN be used well, but I can't see it surviving.

ON the other hand, I'd love to see a rise in IMAX development and theaters. That's should be the next step cinema goes. I was lucky enough to see a screening of The Dark Knight when the film was re-released in January (saw it at The Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. of all places) and I thought it was amazing in IMAX. I really regretted not seeing Watchmen (My favorite film of 2009 so far) in IMAX, but it was tough since no IMAX theaters near me had it. Same for Star Trek. That should be the next step and the next big thing in Cinema, not 3D.


As has been pointed out, there are simply more prominent male leads than female, so regardless of what films I watch, statistically I'm going to see more male leads. One need look no further than IMDB's top 250 to see this.

But this does not mean the reflections of my own motivations for watching film are biased towards my own sex, because I see what is presented and what is presented is statistically stacked. I cannot control what is produced and I watch only films whose premise interests me, and what interests me has nothing to do with what gender the lead is. I just want to watch a good movie. Does one really need to over-analyze this desire?

To that end, I can offer at least one or two good examples of strong lead female roles that reached me, the first being Ripley in the first two Alien films. The second one especially was reinforced for me by the surrogate bond shared by Ripley and Newt and how that became the motivation for the characters. Another I can think of would be that of Agent Starling in "Silence of the Lambs". Both of these are really awesome films. In both cases, it didn't matter whether the lead was a guy or not, they were just good films and I enjoyed them because the talent on display made me believe in and care about these characters.

And what of films that are ensemble casts, where there are no clear leading roles? I would argue that at least Toy Story II and The Incredibles both qualify under this banner, and both of which endow their female characters with moments that reach the heart and in one case, deeply so.

What more could I possibly say to convince you that all I want to see is a really good film, period?

Bill Hays wrote on May 18, 2009 3:50 PM - "No, it's just that not enough of us have seen "Up."

I've only seen the trailer for it, too. Once it hits local theaters, then I can check it out. Roger liked the film but even if he hadn't, Pixar always had my money as its Animation; just not for the 3D version of it - but while still sincerely wishing those who enjoy that format, a good time. Any other position strikes me as hypocritical. You can't ask others to care about you, if you're not willing to care about them in return, eh? It would also display an element of pettiness in one's character to wish another misery, and I hope that's not one of my failings as a person. As Roger himself noted not too long ago inside a thread, "we're all connected" and what matters in the end is being kind to one another. :)

In regards to writing a script, I take your point but counter with this...

More than once, I've seen Roger told to do just that, too. "If you don't like it Ebert, then go make your own movie, you arrogant opinionated...!" I always laugh at the irony of it - not just because he's a film "critic" (DUH?) but they're essentially using freedom of speech to tell him to shut-up inside his own blog and the only reason we're aware of that is because their displeasure was allowed to be heard inside it, chuckle! In the same way my voice can be heard and yours too, he doesn't tell anyone to "go make their own blog" instead. Which is tolerance in practice not theory, no? :)

Change has to start somewhere. If a dissident voice is restricted to a room filled with like minded people, it tends to be a moot point to have spoken. And because Roger's the moderator and not a large Corporation or their Marketing Dept, they don't control the voices you'll find in here. That is the providence of the spam filter.

And imo, if you raise a generation to buy into whatever you're selling, and in the buying, condition them to want more of the same and increasingly higher doses of it, any research conducted to determine the likes & dislikes of a consumer, will simply reflect a seed planted by the self-interest of another now bearing fruit. Hollywood is a business but it doesn't operate in a vacuum; what effects society, effects it too.

Common scenario: she's got a good script and pitches her idea and they say they like it - but insist upon changes. Changes designed to make it more appealing to young men and in doing so, enable the very thing her script was TRYING to address and change! If she refuses, they won't make it. If she agrees, it's no longer her vision.

If you won't let me make a film about a heroine until you see that heroine works financially, how can you get that film made? It's a catch-22. And if the reason it's caught in one is because certain systems and mindsets are entrenched and refuse to budge, what then? It's akin to: as soon as you can show me a film starring a black actor can make as much money as a white actor, we'll do it. And if you're not as economically empowered to make that movie yourself, what then? If little girls have bought into the bogus idea that self-empowerment in 2009 is pimping yourself out or "Bride Wars" what then? If a deck is stacked when the cards are dealt, what then?

Roger's seen several movies now at Cannes including "Precious". How many men are going to think her story is their story, too? See the threads that connect her to them? See the universality of it? I confess, I don't think it will be many. And so even when a good film gets made, full of emotional action and dynamic stuff happening - no cars? No explosions? No female nudity? How many theaters are going to show it? And more importantly, why not?

Money, they'll say. It won't make as much as another type of film. But WHY? Answer: because because of "who" has more money to spend, and time to spend it. And who's that? Bingo.

The disparity between men and women as it relates to film and the roles we get to play, what each is allowed to do or be, only exists in the first place because certain things are there to enable the disparity. Men enable men, more so than women. In the same way and until recently, whites enabled whites and you couldn't get a black man elected president - it wasn't because they weren't willing to apply themselves and work hard, eh? Something else was in the way too. Had Chaz, Roger's wife, been born 100 years ago, she'd could have applied herself all she liked - there's no way she'd have been allowed to become a trial lawyer let alone a Judge.

Saying that out loud doesn't mean I think all men are the same. I know they're not...

"In 1975 at O'Rourke's, he met Ingrid Eng... Ebert became close to her children and helped one of her daughters, Monica, get a "copy kid" job at the Sun-Times. Today she is a reporter for the Tribune. "I don't think I'd be in journalism if it weren't for him," she says." - "A Life in the Movies" by Carol Felsenthal, the article appears in the December 2005 issue of Chicago Magazine.

Side note: I've seen your baby picture from 1942, Roger. You're so cute! Nice shirt. :)
This also caught my eye - "with a stunning atrium that shows off three large paintings by the British abstract expressionist Gillian Ayres."

But I digress...

I agree with you, when it comes to examples like "Raiders". But only because I can pretend I'm "either" character. I can be Indiana Jones or I can be Marion - but note: describe Marion's character parameters - is she all girly? Also, are you aware that a transcript has been released of the original 1978 story conference for Raiders of the Lost Ark between Lucas, Spielberg and Kasdan, wherein they discuss her character?

G — I was thinking that this old guy could have been his mentor. He could have known this little girl when she was just a kid. Had an affair with her when she was eleven.

L — And he was forty-two.

G — He hasn't seen her in twelve years. Now she's twenty-two. It's a real strange relationship.

S — She had better be older than twenty-two.

G — He's thirty-five, and he knew her ten years ago when he was twenty-five and she was only twelve. It would be amusing to make her slightly young at the time.

S — And promiscuous. She came onto him.

G — Fifteen is right on the edge. I know it's an outrageous idea, but it is interesting. Once she's sixteen or seventeen it's not interesting anymore. But if she was fifteen and he was twenty-five and they actually had an affair the last time they met. And she was madly in love with him and he...

It goes on from there and if curious, there's a link provided at that site where you can download the entire 125-page transcript in PDF.

Meanwhile, actual film dialogue...

INDY: I never meant to hurt you.
MARION: I was a child! I was in love.
INDY: You knew what you were doing.
MARION: It was wrong. You knew it.

So I'll say it again, there are systems in place and things at work and not all of them are obvious or in plain sight. And if they don't effect you, and you're not looking for them, how do you know you're not missing something?

P.S. I initially found that transcript on a feminist site. :)

Ebert: Are you familiar with Gillian Ayres OBE? A great lady and a great character. Chaz and I have three of her enormous oils, one smaller one--and a rug!;=utf-8&rls;=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client;=firefox-a&um;=1&ie;=UTF-8&sa;=N&hl;=fr&tab;=wi

To Coop,
Hey Coop, glad to be of some help.

To Marie,
Yes, I agree the first Aliens is the best of the series. But you know what? I like Sigourney Weaver in Dave best. Just look at her turn up at the office of Dave near the end of the film: so understated and a far cry from her stint as First Lady; and yet still so appealing in her gal-next-door way.


On the issue of video games as art... there is a title called Braid that was released recently. The game told the story of a man saving a princess from a monster through multiple chapters. At the end of the game, everything "rewound" the story to show how every event and every action told the REAL story - that the "hero" was actually the antagonist and the princess was trying to escape HIM. Filled with beautiful imagery and music, the game told an amazing story and provided emotional experience for the player. Is that not art?

What separates the feelings and inspiration a person takes from a game from the feelings and inspirations he/she might derive from a book, movie or musical piece? I view it as an evolution of those things... first we had storytelling and music, then books, then movies which combined music and images to tell a story, and now videogames - a medium that can combine music and images to tell a story in which the player is an actual participant instead of a passive observer. What potential! Sure there is a lot of trash and I am not making the argument that all games are art, but neither are all movies nor all paintings, etc.

What will keep video games from ever becoming a form of art in your opinion? Is it possible that the right writer/director hasn't arrived to bring all the elements that make art together into a game?

It is my view that almost anything can be art, if it is created with enough passion, inspiration and talent.

Thanks for the great review.

Sorry you're not amongst those of us who love 3D. I travelled an hour and a half to see the wonderful Coraline in 3D, and am glad I did. I'll do the same for this film.

Just as I love color -- I do a lot of photography, and have zero zilch nada bupkus interest in black and white -- I love 3D.

So it goes. Different strokes and all that.

Eagerly awaiting the 29th.

-- stan krute

To Coop:

I share your love for "The Twenty-One Balloons".

If you encounter similar "tip-of-the-tongue" nostalgia in the future, a few keywords entered in a google search can do wonders. Entering the words "krakatoa" and "balloons" (or even "krakatoa" and "diamonds") in a google search returns links to information about the book at wikipedia and I performed a similar search to recall that title a few years ago. :-)

Incidentally, the beloved children's book that jumped to my mind when I first saw the Up trailer was "James and the Giant Peach".


You didn't reply to what I posted, here it is again:

"I imagine a day when the opening feature at Cannes is an interactive experience."

Mike Figgis live audio mix of "Timecode."

You also said:

"...a medium that can combine music and images to tell a story in which the player is an actual participant instead of a passive observer."

In the live audio mix of "Timecode", he fed off the audiences energy--they can cheer, boo, whatever.

So, the audience was interacting with the sound of the movie, and there probably is a way for the audience to be able to cheer or boo etc. with the images too, like a DJ. If there were some kind of futuristic editing machine that could have it cut and taped or cut by a simple mouse click, then that would be a way for movies to be interactive. If the director (preferably) or someone could edit the movie in real time and the sound in real time in front of a live audience feeding off the audiences energy, that's Interacting with them. To have the audience interact with the movie as a video game...I'd have to go back to what Roger said:

Ebert: How will that work? Every audience member sees a different image?

That won't work. But anyway, there is a possibility of interactive live cinema and it's been done with sound. We just have to wait until someone can edit a movie in front of an audience and have it playback instantly, including sound, which has been done.

Reply to: Marie: If you won't let me make a film about a heroine until you see that heroine works financially, how can you get that film made? It's a catch-22. And if the reason it's caught in one is because certain systems and mindsets are entrenched and refuse to budge, what then? The disparity between men and women as it relates to film and the roles we get to play, what each is allowed to do or be, only exists in the first place because certain things are there to enable the disparity.

Case in point: Pirates of the Caribbean.

A movie based on a Disneyland ride, it was going to serve as an ad for the theme park no matter what. What Disney calls a win-win.

It was written for Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) to struggle greatly in her choice between (1) hunky blacksmith Will Turner (2) dashing Commodore Norrington or (3) trickster pirate Captain Jack Sparrow.

Guess what? Everyone thinks it was written as The Adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow.

Because of the time period, Elizabeth was limited in what the character was allowed to do. She was a kidnap victim, a daughter of the Governor pursued and wooed by men. Boring.

There are fantastic things for women to do in film, especially if set in a modern time period. Instead, we get "Catch and Release," a movie written by a woman, directed by the same woman, that no one at Columbia... well, even noticed that it didn't have a climax.

Reply to: I can pretend I'm Indiana Jones or I can be Marion - but note: describe Marion's character parameters - is she all girly? Also, are you aware that a transcript has been released of the original 1978 story conference?

Already have a copy, but thanks. George hired a director to make "Red Tails" with Cuba Gooding Jr., and Paramount wants another Indiana Jones... but I really like the possibility of LucasFilm making a new version of "Willow," with a heroine in the title role instead of Warwick Davis:

George Lucas: After the theatrical release of American Graffiti, I created three film ideas that I hoped would become profitable film franchises. The third concept, which is Willow, earned slightly over $ 50 million U.S dollars in North America. I had enough story ideas for two Willow film trilogies. It wasn't meant to be and these other Willow adventures will never be published for the public to see.

"Willow" takes place in the Realm of Magic. "Star Trek" didn't bother to create a new villain, just re-cycled a lot of old ideas. Well, that's what George does, too.

George Lucas: Darth Maul is my personal interpretation of Clint Eastwood's legendary Man With No Name from the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns that were filmed over 40 years ago. The Man With No Name is mostly a silent character, who does his talking with his weapons. Similarly, Maul doesn't speak often and instead prefers to do his communicating with a light saber.

George Lucas: Boba Fett was a minor character in the old films with few lines of dialogue and nearly no important scenes. Boba was my interpretation of Clint Eastwood's The Man With No Name from the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns from the 1960's. For some odd reason, the fans are intrigued with silent characters, who are mysterious and whose history remains unknown to the audience.

when Chris Nolan wrote The Joker for Heath Ledger, he played around with this same concept. A villain who is also a mystery and an enigma. Of course, that was already developed in the comic book mythology.

Even if you restrict your analysis to the films of George Lucas, it's easy to see what works and what doesn't. I'm always surprised that no studio has made another "Star Wars." The potential profits are enormous.

It would take a lot of nerve to write a script about a Villain who doesn't speak, who just appears in the Realm of Magic with no backstory. But that might be the best way for a Willowy heroine (like Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Swann) to keep our attention.

The best part of "Raiders" was the relationship between Indy and Marion. Two damaged individuals that no one else would want, but together they make a whole. If the guy has been so damaged that he barely speaks, and there's magic involved, the audience would have a lot to root for.

anyway, that's how I would design a movie with a Heroine in the lead role.

I must say that I completely disagree with your condemnation of 3D. You said that it is just a gimmick to justify higher ticket prices and prevent piracy. While those certainly are contributing factors, I think film makers are genuinely trying to get beyond 3D as just a gimmick and use it to truly enhance the visual experience. For example, except for a couple gags in which objects fly toward the audience, most of Monsters Vs. Aliens takes place close to or behind the screen, not in front of it. It is unfortunate that glasses are still the only way to isolate the eyes. I could see an argument that the glasses are distracting, but I definitely enjoy the 3D itself.

Also, I don’t think it is fair for you to refer to the 2D version of Up as the “truel” version. Unlike a couple years ago when 3D started its most recent comeback, most of the newer 3D moves, including Up I believe, are created first in 3D and then converted back to 2D (probably by using the frames for just one eye). Therefore, the 3D version is the “true” version. Actually, I saw Monsters in 3D and later saw some scenes in 2D. I realized that unlike true 2D computer animated movies, everything in 3D is kept in crisp focus since the images only line up at the viewers focus point. I remember a specific scene in which two characters were close to the camera and other characters were much farther away. In 2D the characters that are supposed to be farther away just look small, but in 3D the scene had depth.

Technology has been used throughout film history to enhance the movie experience. First sound, then color. I’m sure they were gimmicks at first too. It seems to me that to say a movie created in 3D should be only seen in 2D is like saying that it should only be seen in black and white or without sound. I look forward to Up in 3D. I hope you will keep an open mind and review the movie as Pixar intended it to be seen. Only then will it really mean anything if you recommend the 2D version over the 3D.

I'm not sure about 3D. I've never seen it without it being used as a gimmick though as unfortunately I missed Coraline in 3D (wonderful movie though I thought they used Wybie poorly). I've never really felt that a new technology would help engross an audience in a movie. Ebert mentioned that he has been accused of not accepting the change to color or sound. Really one of the best movies made is Casablanca made without color or CG (am I the only person who thinks people look more beautiful in black and white). With all the attempts to to find ways to fake engrossment mostly with computer graphics and now 3D most movies can not match Casablanca. And I can't imagine that Casablanca would be better with CG or in 3D.

Now video games, like everything else most of them are crap but they are simply a different medium. In the way that music is incomparable to paintings however for every Bach there are a thousand NSyncs. For every Michelangelo there are a thousand (cant think of a crappy artist right now). But a truly good game beats a bad movie any day of the week, Myst and Riven are better than Wolverine (actually the better comparison is Myst/Riven to City of Ember but Ember is actually a good movie but puzzles are better suited for a game and the whole time I watched the movie all I could think was that it would make a fantastic game that would be better played than watched). Bioshock is better than My Bloody Valentine. Unfortunately video games have the same huge bureaucracy that movies do so the market is filled with sequels and cheap knockoffs. (that whole argument goes the same with Anime, you should rent Tekkonkinkreet you won't be dissapointed)

Ebert wrote: Are you familiar with Gillian Ayres OBE? A great lady and a great character. Chaz and I have three of her enormous oils, one smaller one--and a rug!

Familiar? You betcha! She's one of the few female artists ever to be short-listed for the Turner Prize! And I've seen her "Antony and Cleopatra" at the Tate Gallery; imo it's like standing inside a stained glass window while dreaming of something sublime. And you've got some of her work; would it be inappropriate at this point to call you a lucky bastard? :)

Note: as much as I enjoyed that article about you by Felsenthal, the minute I read you owned some Ayres, I was like "yeah, yeah, enough about his career - I want to hear more about their Art collection, dammit!" Chuckle! FYI to readers: you need some serious wall space to hang her larger pieces, and that alone informs my visualization of the scale of Mr. and Mrs. Ebert's country house. I can't hate you though - you're spending your money the way I'd spend your money.

I suppose it would be akin to inviting buglers to break in for knowing exactly what you have, but I wish there was a site devoted to your collection of Art. Then I could see all your watercolors and oil paintings and stuff! :)

Robert of Taoyuan City, Taiwan wrote on May 19, 2009 9:27 AM - "Yes, I agree the first Aliens is the best of the series. But you know what? I like Sigourney Weaver in Dave best. Just look at her turn up at the office of Dave near the end of the film: so understated and a far cry from her stint as First Lady; and yet still so appealing in her gal-next-door way."

I liked that film too! And Sigourney in it; imo, she played it as a person, not a 2-dimentional stereotype of a First Lady.

All I want, is to see a more gender balanced landscape, you know? I don't want to see women acquire more political and economic power and suddenly turn around and do to men, what men have historically done to my sex; I don't want men to lose what they enjoy, rather, just not enjoy it at the expense of others. Ie: a world where roles are determined by one's choices and skill sets.

Did you know, that depending upon how much testosterone the brain of a developing fetus gets while in the womb, regardless of that child's subsequent gender once born, their brain will be more or less hardwired with certain skill? And that's why some guys can't operate a fighter jet, whereas some women can. And some women are really good at science while some men excel at music; ex: Paul McCarthy and John Lennon. A lot of it has to do with the brain, not your anatomy.

And for what it's worth, women can make me crazy too. I can't watch "the View" for example with Barbara Walters because for me, it's like sticking my head inside a dryer! I can however, happily watch "Spectacle" with Elvis Costello on Bravo Canada. :)

Ever see "Sabrina" with Audrey Hepburn? I'd like to be Sabrina, and wear this beautiful white Givenchy dress with black embroidered applique and go to the Larrabee Ball and dance with Humphrey Bogart to "Isn't it Romantic" inside the indoor tennis courts - yes, I know that's actually William Holden in the photo...

But I also want to be the female character "Starbuck" in Battlestar Galactica, season 3: ep "Unfinished Business" - toss your dog tags in the box, pick your partner and go for a dance; its how the flight crew works off tension, a boxing match open to all genders and ranks...

It all appeals to me, it really does - but you'll see "Sabrina types" far more so than Starbucks in the movies. And that's a pity. It's like being asked to be content with half a box of crayons. What if you'd like to be Audrey Hepburn on Monday and Starbuck on Tuesday, eh? All soft and girly one minute and then the next, you're giving as good as you get.

Men can be all sorts of things, women too. It all depends on the person and there's the rub; who gets to be a person and who has to stick to their "gender".

At any rate, it's been nice to explore it all on Roger's dime inside his blog. I've been getting mail about it from women; they think it's awesome I could take the walking bass line that I have, that I wasn't shut down. I told them they should tell Roger that, but they're more comfortable inside feminist blogs - not everyone's worked with male animators and developed Kevlar. But my mission is complete - I've dropped my pebble in the pond which is all I wanted to do, just like Rosa Parks; you can't change the world over night, but you can make a ripple. :)

eric wrote on May 19, 2009 10:47 AM - "It is my view that almost anything can be art, if it is created with enough passion, inspiration and talent."

I agree! I love the game "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed" on Xbox for example, ie: how it looks combined with the story elements in the cutscenes. It's epic and poetic and my heart aches for Starkiller aka Saw Witwer - who got burned big time by the way in "Doomsday" the season 8 finale of Smallville; as WTF was that, dudes?! The writers just flushed his character's arc down the toilet while jumping the shark yet AGAIN on that show!

*Insert really long rant worthy of the "deep, bitterness society thread" over at Television Without Pity; choke, grumble, snarl!

There's also the "Mad World" trailer for the game "Gears of War"...

There's a sublime beauty to the horror of it all, at least in the trailer. I tried playing the game once; I panicked and shot everything that moved, including my own friends. (Ooops!)

Halo Wars - now there's a gorgeous piece of graphic animation! Shot like a film, with the same scope and cinematic sensibility you'd find in "Lawrence of Arabia" - it's beautiful work:

I also think there's artistry to working with images in 3D for film - but ironically, it pulls me "out" of the story. But I'm delighted to hear Stanley Krute really enjoyed seeing "Coraline" in 3D - given he had to travel for 1.5 hrs just to reach the theater! Can you imagine the level of suckage if you walk out disappointed, feeling robbed?!

Note: "James and the Giant Peach" was cool too. Actually, now that I think about it, and I'm not sure if it qualifies as 3D, but you know all those Tim Burton movies..? Stop-motion? Corpse Bride? Nightmare Before Christmas? That stuff ironically pulls me INTO a story.

Go figure, eh?

Although Burton can't write decent parts for female characters to save his life. :)

"Ebert: How will that work? Every audience member sees a different image?"

Ok, point taken - as Cannes is currently set up an interactive experience may not work. However, things change and evolve in ways we can't anticipate. Technology advances, 30 years ago would you have willingly accepted the fact that in 2009 people would be wearing (relatively) expensive 3d glasses to watch a computer animated movie to open the film festival? The lines of these mediums are blurring... is it so far fetched to imagine that in 2039 guests will sit down and don virtual reality goggles to enjoy a feature?

And not just the mediums are changing, the audiences are as well. As interactive technology gets better and becomes more mainstream, new generations of people will come around that won't view it as a new gimmick but as another form of human expression. Artists (yes, artists!) will hone their craft to express ideas and evoke emotional responses from their audiences. We live in a glorious age - a new frontier where anything is possible and you don't have to have the backing of billion dollar corporations to produce quality work, just a home computer and some software! Not one piece of great art will come out of all this? No great mind will create a masterpiece that isn't just a one sided artist/viewer relationship but one that actively engages the audience and uses their participation to fully immerse them in the experience?

I see so much potential.

Reply to: Marie: At any rate, it's been nice to explore it all on Roger's dime inside his blog. But my mission is complete - I've dropped my pebble in the pond which is all I wanted to do....

That's not how it works.

(1) The problem is entrenched. If merely describing the problem was enough to solve it, why would we still have child and sexual predators?

(2) If there's a reason why men haven't figured this out... maybe you need to do more than explain. You need to workshop until the guy writing scripts on spec feels comfortable with the new concepts.

And, finally, you need to write a script:

Write the entire script, submit it, finish in the Top 5, and sell it to a studio that will make it YOUR way. Here's the free version of a program that helps you format and convert a script to PDF:

And here's the $249 version

Reply to: I've been getting mail about it from women; they think it's awesome I could take the walking bass line that I have, that I wasn't shut down. I told them they should tell Roger that, but they're more comfortable inside feminist blogs.

Please don't assume that I'm ever going to read feminist blogs. Tell them to come here.

OK, Pirates of the Caribbean. In the original concept, Elizabeth was supposed to make a choice between a blacksmith, a British Naval officer and a pirate. Not sure how much of that was taken from the Disneyland ride, but what British woman of nobility would choose a Caribbean pirate?

At the end of Casablanca, Rick got to choose which man got on the plane with Ilsa.

Is that enough of a climax? I don't think so. But the climax has to answer the question asked in Act One.

I think women need MORE... than simply deciding which man to marry.

At the end of "Titanic," Rose said, "Jack died, but he saved me. He saved me in every way possible."

By giving Rose the confidence and self-esteem to make a life without marrying a wealthy man she hated.

What we're looking for... is Elation. The ending that lifts our spirits and makes us feel better about ourselves and humanity.

How does THAT ending... the elation.... fit into the theme you've been discussing? Is there some movie that had the wrong ending, that could be easily fixed?

Reply to: Ever see "Sabrina" with Audrey Hepburn? I'd like to be Sabrina, and wear this beautiful white Givenchy dress with black embroidered applique and go to the Larrabee Ball and dance with Humphrey Bogart to "Isn't it Romantic" inside the indoor tennis courts ...But I also want to be "Starbuck" - a boxing match open to all genders and ranks...

One reason Indiana Jones worked (and Batman) was the Dual Identity. A Playboy billionaire AND a costumed crime fighter. Audiences really love characters who have two complete identities, and can switch back and forth. As a college professor, Indy wore a bow tie. As an adventurer, a fedora and a bullwhip. You couldn't carry the bullwhip into a college classroom, or use it.

But a boxing match, where a woman feels she can put on gloves and step into a ring with men...?? Definitely a Fantasy life there. Lots of ways to do it. The robot from "Bicentennial Man" and the Japanese sex toy who goes on a walkabout.... or a female Terminator who arrives in 2007 looking for a boxer? So many possibilities... If you want to write a great script for a movie, I'm thinking you need a list of 100 possibilities. A very long list, because you don't want to send out a script that isn't the very best you can do.

I haven't seen "Up" yet. There may be a twist at the end that would make the ending work. But discovering that your childhood hero is actually a villain? No elation.


I've read many of your reviews over the last 15 years or so. I enjoy your writing very much. I'm 24-years-old, and I just wanted to tell you that I completely agree with your opinions of 3D. I hate it! I enjoyed Monsters vs. Aliens more than I have any other 3D, but if I could have seen it in 2D, I would have. I'm weary of James Cameron's upcoming 'Avatar'. The premise sounds like it may be a great story, but I do not look forward to the 3D aspect at all. I can deal with it in animation if I have to, but I hate it even more in live action. I wish studios would ditch the technology for the most part, but I'm sure it won't happen. They see in dollar signs. Oh well! I can't wait to see Up, and hopefully I will be able to view it minus the 3D. Thanks!

Bill Hays wrote: Even if you restrict your analysis to the films of George Lucas, it's easy to see what works and what doesn't. I'm always surprised that no studio has made another "Star Wars." The potential profits are enormous.

I think that's exactly what the Harry Potter franchise has done. I've always thought of the Harry Potter books and films as a cross between Star Wars and The Great Brain.

I think quite a few (jealous?) wannabe screenwriters have railed against J.K. Rowling for the similarities between Harry Potter and the Star Wars films.

"A female Captain of the Enterprise? obviously, Hollywood doesn't know how to do this."

And yet somehow they did seven years of a Star Trek series with Kate Mulgrew playing the captain.


I don't see the potential in audience members wearing virtual reality goggles, because then they are no longer an audience, unless you count one person as an audience member, which wouldn't need an entire theater. But as I mentioned, if a director could edit movies and have it playback instantly, and do it with sound too, which was already done by Mike Figgis with "Timecode", then you have a live movie. And also, movie goers don't just passively watch the screen, they also applause, or if it is a really good movie, then it will require an active viewer.

Marie wrote, But I also want to be the female character "Starbuck" in Battlestar Galactica...

Marie, are you serious?! Starbuck is a freakin' Ceylon hybrid. (sniggering) And yes, I had seen both versions of Sabrina. Don't you just love Hepburn and Binoche? The former version is especially distinct to my mind because it had Humphrey Bogart jumping over a sheet of plastic during the days when it was still considered novel. Ah, those were the pre-Tupperware days...

Btw, what do you think of the female characters portrayed in Babette's Feast? God, I love that film. At times when I'm glum and my imagination is in need of rattling (and I do need a lot of rattling), I just slide the disk into the machine and slip myself into another life: perhaps that of an artist, a gourmet, or a chef, which ironically are not what the movie is about, but nonetheless. Unlike in most films, the women in Babette's Feast do not come across as aggressive. They are women who have come to terms with themselves and their lots in life (however ludicrous it might be, as in the case of Babette). What is potentially jarring about the film is that these women do not have any statement to make at all. The sisters Martina and Philippa, especially, seem to be teetering between filial obedience and breaking loose of their vestal lives, and then finally getting nowhere. Because of these, the film seemed pointless to me at first. But then, I gradually understood that there is also beauty in their inertness; and finally, I accept their small liberation through Babette's feast, reluctantly at first, even though it came much too late in their lives.

Of course, the film is much more than the women who inhabit it. Just look at Babette go her way through the kitchen! The film also pokes at our dashed expectations with the question, "What were you thinking? Shame on you." After all, chastity belts do not come cheap.

Bill Hays wrote on May 20, 2009 1:39 PM - "That's not how it works."

Subtext: "It's over when "I" say it's over, Marie!"

Really? :)

"If merely describing the problem was enough to solve it, why would we still have child and sexual predators?" - Bill Hays

Roger Ebert does not write scripts. He nevertheless manages to make a valuable contribution to the medium he so dearly loves, and has devoted much of his life to. He is a canary in the mine. And along with being a dissident voice, one which also conversely champions all there is to admire and support in Film. Each journal entry, a pebble in the pond. Hundreds and hundreds of pebbles dropped each year, and touching upon shores of influence who knows where.

But that's me. If Roger really wants to see better films being made, shouldn't he be writing/pitching them and or making his own? That seems to be your position and thinking on the issue, so shouldn't you be telling HIM to "go here, do this..?" If you ever have I must have missed it. :)

And if words can never be actions and you're not unwittingly part of a problem for failing to see it, shouldn't you be taking your own advice now - not standing on the outside looking in, but participating in activities, knowledge of which is often spread through social-networking sites such as Feminist blogs, so as to be more informed at a local level on how best to contribute in a meaningful way to solving the problem you mentioned?

"Please don't assume that I'm ever going to read feminist blogs. Tell them to come here." - Bill

Oh but wait, that's right - it's not up to Bill to engage, just tell others to and how. :)

Subtext: "You (female) need to workshop until the guy (male) writing scripts on spec feels comfortable (tippy-toe around his ego) with the new concepts."

"There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me." - Elizabeth Bennett

Re: Pirates of the Caribbean, I didn't like Elizabeth's character. I didn't buy Knightly for a second, not even as fiction - token girl power crossed with eye-candy. As for Titanic, my brother-in-law is an Englishman and history buff; I've sat through many a documentary devoted to it as a result. The romance may have appealed to countless girls, but they're also freaking out over Twilight. The juxtaposition of romance against a backdrop of immanent death for want of a surprise ending, was for me too akin to "Beyond Borders" with Angelina Jolie and Clive Owen; a romance set against a violent backdrop of war - 'cause war makes sex hotter right? Roger doesn't like A Clockwork Orange, I don't like Titanic. Sometimes, stuff just bugs you.

"But a boxing match, where a woman feels she can put on gloves and step into a ring with men...?? Definitely a Fantasy life there." - Bill


You're missing the point - seeing only the surface. It’s about pushing yourself mentally and physically and daring to boldly go where girls usually don't Kirk - to cross that line, break that barrier, carpe diem! Boxing is a sport and girls (not all) like to play it too! And if you partner with a man, it's akin to moving up to the next level on your XBox game, dude! :)

Note: a friend of mine has a black belt in Taekwondo; she trained with men. I'm too lazy to train - that's why it's a FANTASY. Chuckle! I just want to play with all the crayons you guys get to - including a light saber! And since everything's technically possible in the movies, why it's even more galling and offensive to my sense of self-worth that I have to limit myself as a human being on the planet to a tiny room another has built for my gender, because they can't share a bigger sandbox even when it's FICTIONAL!

"But discovering that your childhood hero is actually a villain? No elation."

Is that what you'd took away from it? It means Indiana Jones isn't as nice as guy now? It's not about him. Who was speaking? What do their comments reveal about what THEY think is interesting? And how they wanted to approach the female character? It's about men in positions of power in Hollywood. Imo, it sheds insight into some of what goes on behind closed doors - ie: it's not as easy as writing a script, it's about who'll likely being looking at it and whatever agendas they've got; knowingly or otherwise.

And having read the transcript of their conversation, it doesn't change how I personally see Indy. Heck no. Moreover, I'm not about to let those clueless goof's take away my happy girlhood memories without a fight! And you shouldn't either if he meant anything to you! Where's your loyalty?! Man down - help him back up, dude! It's not Indy's fault, he didn't write that crap! Focus on what matters. Indy was covered in spiders (SHUDDER) and still got the job done and didn't puke, dammit!

You'll always be my hero, Jones. :)

Reply to: think quite a few (jealous?) wannabe screenwriters have railed against J.K. Rowling for the similarities between Harry Potter and the Star Wars films.

I see no reason to complain.

You can't rope off a certain territory and say "That belongs to Star Wars and we can't use it." (Well, maybe a sword that uses a blade made of plasma.)

Great Britain had a tradition of Merlin, the Lady of the Lake, ie, the Realm of Magic and/or Camelot, before George even thought of going to film school.

(2) George created two original heroes (Artoo and Threepio) and a villain (Vader) who were not identifiable as any ethnic group. The audience always draws a connection between the villain and some group, and says, "That's not fair." Even in "Shrek," when the villain was identified as (a) extremely short and (b) a British Lord.

About the same time, Steven gave us Bruce the Shark. What a fantastic villain.

When Victor Lazlo told the band to play "Les Marseilles," that's how you connect to an ethnic group. 'La Marseillaise' is, musically, the most rousing national anthem in the world. On 25th April 1792, Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle, a Captain of the Engineers in the Rhine Army, was stationed in Strasbourg. France had just declared war on Austria and Prussia and the army was preparing to go to Paris. The Mayor of Strasbourg approached de Lisle about composing a marching tune for this march to Paris and de Lisle composed it during the night. The song was originally entitled Chant de guerre de l'armeé du Rhin (War Song of the Army of the Rhine).

Arise children of the fatherland
The day of glory has arrived
Against us tyranny's
Bloody standard is raised

If you're going to write a movie specifically for Cannes, you could show the heroes walking into a hopeless battle singing it.

(3) The idea of a wish coming true.

The best thing the original "Star Wars," now episode 4, did, was giving us a farm boy who felt that life was passing him by. ie, if there's a bright center to the galaxy, I'm on the planet farthest from it.

How many people in American feel that way? They read about Roger's adventures in the south of France, or George Clooney's odyssey to Los Angeles, where he slept on the couch of his famous aunt Rosemary Clooney, and they think, "If only I could...."

Luke Skywalker saw his dream come true. He got to strike a blow against the Evil Galactic Empire. Destroyed the biggest threat to peace, a battle station that could destroy an entire planet. He got a medal, two new friends, and became a Hero. So much elation.

Not to mention the second most important thing. His victory confirmed the existence of the Force, so everyone in the audience who knows their own religious beliefs are false can pretend they're real. that's why "The Exorcist" resonated. That underlying theme of "the Catholic church has the answers if you'd only listen."

Or, Indiana Jones, where an ancient Jewish legend was shown to contain power beyond imagination. For Hostel films director Eli Roth, who steps out from behind the camera to play one of the Basterd sergeants, "Being Jewish, this is definitely for me like Kosher porn," Roth joked. "It's something I fantasized about since I was a very young child."

Find a fantasy... that a large group shared, as young children... and use it. ie, Saving a princess from a dungeon or a castle tower.

I'm posting this in the "Up" blog entry... because it's the only film from Cannes that remotely works for me. Than has Elation. The moment when a Hero decides to abandon a life that isn't working for him, and rise up into the clouds.

There was a movie called "Lethal Weapon." Martin Riggs as a LA cop who loses his wife in a traffic accident. he finds a new family in Roger Murtaugh and wife (and kids.) A lonely man finding a family... even if it's his own family in "It's A Wonderful Life".... is also a moment of elation.

The bottom line is, Star Wars was a Myth with fantasy aspects, and it did many, many things right. And if you want to make a movie about an entirely different Myth, you still have to use many of the same elements. Filmmakers should BRAG about stealing from Star Wars, not apologize for it. Especially the music. And if Harry Potter could destroy Lord Valdemort's battle station with a fleet of fighter jets instead of riding on a frickin' broom stick, that would be a great end to the series. With a bumper sticker on Harry's fighter that reads "I stole this idea from George Lucas... bite me."

Ha, mix-up, Roger! It seems you're not the only one making mistakes (e.g., typos). Julia Ormond for Sabrina (1995), not Juliette Binoche. Geez, how did I get this one wrong? No wonder I was kinda restless last night.

I guess the resemblance was strong. (^_^)

Robert of Taoyuan City, Taiwan wrote on May 21, 2009 4:44 AM - "Marie, are you serious?! Starbuck is a freakin' Ceylon hybrid. (sniggering)"

Chuckle! Season 4 doesn't count - they jumped the shark! I had no idea what the frack was going on!

Besides, it all comes to crayons. Boys get to be any color in the box they want; Iron Man to Darth Vader and everything in between. But dreams don't have a gender, you can be a girl and want those things too - to be "Spaceman Spiff" and stuff like that!

Moreover when men watch a movie, they get to see themselves painted in all sorts of colors (every imaginable character you could think of) from the nicest neighbor to the most evil of creatures. You guys get to be Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Richard III! It's your voices I hear:

"Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried."

And part of the fun of watching a movie is getting to live vicariously through the characters on the screen, finding some means into them through empathy or understanding - and for a moment standing in their shoes! Example: "Le Samourai" 1967, is the story of Jef Costello (Alain Delon) a Parisian contract killer who realizes he's being double crossed by his employers and seeks revenge!;=related

Or how about the original Talented Mr. Ripley aka the French thriller "Plein Soleil" - Purple Noon, with its haunting theme by Nina Rota! It was brought back as part of Scorsese's revival of underseen foreign classics; the character is a charismatic sociopath who lies, murders and manipulates without a shred of remorse. English DVD trailer...

Note: I have it on DVD. I love Ripley; he's such a sneaky bastard! Chuckle! But that's the thing - as fiction. Dexter, Ripley, The Phantom of the Opera, Leon The Professional, Jess Spicoli...;=related

Look at the FUN you get to have, dude! And what do we get?! "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" - blech! We get inane chick flicks! There's a reason guy's hate them - they suck! Sleepless In Seattle : Recut as a horror movie...

Isn't that better? :)

True, we got La Femme Nikita -

But it amounts to a drop in the bucket. It's just more fun and exciting to see the parts guys are getting in the movies - even video games: The Force Unleashed! :)

At least there's TV - Starbuck is a glorious fück-up. An imperfect character who doesn't do what she's told and gets into trouble and every once in a while, if you're a girl, it's nice "not" to be lady like. You guys got Marlon Brando in the Wild Bunch, right? Okay she's our version of that, sorta. :)

"And yes, I had seen both versions of Sabrina. Don't you just love Hepburn and Binoche? The former version is especially distinct to my mind because it had Humphrey Bogart jumping over a sheet of plastic during the days when it was still considered novel. Ah, those were the pre-Tupperware days..."

OMG! The plastic sheet scene! I love it when David later sits on the champagne glasses stashed away in his pockets and needs stitches in his bum - and Linus has a big HOLE cut into the sheet so it can serve as a "secial custom" hammock. Chuckle!

Btw, what do you think of the female characters portrayed in Babette's Feast? God, I love that film...

I love that film - it's so poignant! She blows ALL the lottery money on making this amazing meal for people who at first don't seem to appreciate it. They're so stiff and self-contained and then slowly but surely as the magic of the meal begins to work itself upon them (the wine too; smile) they loosen up and finally start to live.

The story about the two sisters of course, is especially moving; they had their shot at happiness but their father expected them to "tend to his needs" and so they rejected their suitors - and we see how that stupidity turned out. As they'd loved them, and been loved in return.

The menu responsible for their pleasure features "Blini Demidoff au Caviar" (buckwheat cakes with caviar and sour cream); "Potage à la Tortue" (turtle soup); "Caille en Sarcophage avec Sauce Perigourdine" (quail in puff pastry shell with foie gras and truffle sauce); "La Salad" featuring Belgian endive and walnuts in a vinaigrette; and "Les Fromages" featuring Blue Cheese, papaya, figs, grapes and pineapple. The grand finale dessert is "Savarin au Rhum avec des Figues et Fruit Glacée" (rum sponge cake with figs and glacéed fruits). Numerous rare wines, including Clos de Vougeot, along with various champagnes and spirits, complete the menu.

"The sisters assume that Babette will now return to Paris, and when she tells them that all of her money is gone and that she is not going anywhere, the sisters are aghast. Babette then happily tells them know that dinner for 12 at the Café Anglais has a price of 10,000 francs. Martina tearfully says, "Now you will be poor the rest of your life", to which Babette replies, "An artist is never poor". - wiki

And neither am I. Just occasionally tormented by all I can see my mind's eye and must settle for in dreams.

I can, however, and thanks to YOU having me made me hungry now Robert, enjoy some fresh raspberries on vanilla ice cream. :)

Ebert: Marie, it may be your link to your blog that the spam filter is flagging.

Reply to: Is that what you'd took away from it? It means Indiana Jones isn't as nice as guy now?

Actually, I was talking about the villain in "Up," and how it didn't seem to add to the story for Carl (voiced by Ed Asner) to search for his wife's childhood hero, and discover he's gone bad. In the trailer, the guy who looks like Kirk Douglas, voiced by Christopher Plummer. After playing Captain von Trapp in "Sound of Music," how could Plummer be believable as a villain?

I know you've seen "The Godfather." When he goes to Sicily, Michael corleone falls in love. Francis Ford Coppola chose a 16 year-old actress (Simonetta Stefanelli) to play Michael's bride - which is why the girl's father carries a shotgun - and no one thinks twice. (Born Nov. 30, 1954 - some sites say she was 17)

Reply to: If Roger really wants to see better films being made, shouldn't he be writing/pitching them and or making his own? That seems to be your position on the issue, so shouldn't you be telling HIM to "go here, do this..?" If you ever have I must have missed it. :)

Call it a grey area. Francis Coppola didn't have any qualms about adapting a novel by Mario Puzo. Marty Scorsese has completed a movie called "Shutter Island" - or possibly "Ashecliffe" - from a novel by Dennis Lehane. Spielberg hasn't made a movie from an original story since ET, and he hired Matheson to write the script.

My thought is, wouldn't it be fun to go to Cannes and win the prize? Show them all why "story is king"?

Reply to: Roger: (1) Cannes 2009 awarded the honor of its opening night, which traditionally goes to a French film, to Pixar's 3D "Up." (2) There's electricity in the air. Every seat is filled, even the little fold-down seats at the end of every row. It is the first screening of Lars von Trier's "Antichrist," and we are ready for anything.. . (3) This is how Cannes works. At home, you read about the films and directors, but the moment you arrive in town the buzz takes over. (4) There was once a world, much deprecated at the time, of patriarchal studios, star machines, genre movies, fan magazines, searchlights, and filmmakers who wanted their movies to play big to everybody all over the world.

How can you read about Roger's adventures at Cannes... and not want to play in that sandbox?

Would it make sense to hire a French woman to direct? Play all the odds?

Here's another POV:

SITE: My contacts tell me that the studios are completely risk-averse. They only want packaged scripts with very simple stories. They're afraid of complex stories. They don't want the audience to have to think too much. They really want scripts that lend themselves to having a hot new director brought on board to rewrite or tinker with the script and make it "filmable."

If the major studios aren't putting out complex stories, that leaves a gap. Anyone who makes a movie with a complex story won't have to fight six other movies in the same category.

"The Godfather" cost $ 6.2 million to make. Brando got some back end, so the end cost was a bit more.

I just finished reading "Shutter Island" in paperback. A bit more to the plot than I expected, but one huge problem.

There isn't a relationship we care about.

Let me just speculate for a moment. Let's say there's a female nurse at the mental hospital, since we've been talking about writing meaningful roles for women. One of the patients has psychotic delusions. The patient imagines that the nurse is actually his wife Slips in and out of a psychotic delusion, in the same way that Russell Crowe in "A Beautiful Mind" has Paul Bettis as his Imaginary Friend.

"The Godfather" showed Michael as a tragic hero because he couldn't form relationships. He married a Sicilian bride and she was killed. His older brother Sonny was killed. Michael ordered the deaths of five or six people responsible for other murders.

If you're a patient at a mental hospital.... how do psychotic delusions affect your relationships? That sounds like a movie that could win a prize at Cannes.

It's true that it is harder for some people to see the 3D effect even with today's technology, but I for one have no such problem, so I thoroughly enjoy such a feature. from BEOWUF to JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, I took in the gimmick with total abandon. I would love to see UP in 3D if it should be available at my local cineplex. I also enjoy a great story and Pixar still have its magic, therefore I will go see whether it be 3D or not. BTW, 3D is coming back in a major way, as some studios are already seriously planning to release all of their future endeavor in the format.

Ebert wrote: Marie, it may be your link to your blog that the spam filter is flagging.

It's just a simple website featuring some of my artwork; which you've been to, so you know there's no icky porn over there or anything; chuckle! But I agree, I'm getting flagged a lot for some reason.

I used the "f" word in my last post; I described "Starbuck" as a glorious f-up. But here's the thing - I tried in advance to work around the Spam Filter, using a German letter instead - ie: I used ü.

It still caught it! Even though you can see the full uncensored F-word being used by others in some of the Cannes threads.

I think your spam filter is paying "extra special attention" to my incoming posts and it's now become my life's mission to find out why. That's right, the gloves are coming off Spam Filter! You finally pushed me too far - I'm gonna "take it to the mattresses!"

I'm going to introduce myself to the Webmaster dude at the Chicago Sun-Times and find out where you live!

And I shall show no mercy. :)

"Whatever happened to Patient 67?"
-teaser poster for Scorsese's "Shutter Island"

"Why so serious?"
- Teaser poster for "The Dark Knight"

Reply to: Part of the fun is getting to live vicariously through the characters on the screen. when men watch a movie, they get to see themselves painted in all sorts of colors (every imaginable character you could think of) from the nicest neighbor to the most evil of creatures. And what do women get?! "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" - blech! We get inane chick flicks! There's a reason guy's hate them - they suck! Sleepless In Seattle : Recut as a horror movie...

A female character... whose life is so exciting, we want to go back and watch the movie again. The whole two hours.

Ask yourself, How much FUN can one person possibly have?

Reply to: It's just more fun and exciting to see the parts guys are getting in the movies - even video games: The Force Unleashed! :)

If George would make more movies, it wouldn't be necessary to rip off his best ideas. But he doesn't. LucasFilm is a small, privately owned company that earns a billion dollars in a good year. George said he's going to make a TV show, and if it last for ten years, he'll be happy.

Start with the idea of a Sith Lord. Learn how to tap into the Dark Side of the Force. It gives you unbelievable power, but it also destroys your physical body. You become weak. So weak you can barely sit up in a chair. But when you make the connection to the Dark Side, you can shoot lightning bolts out of your fingertips. You can levitate cars. You get visions of the future.

This was done badly with Doctor Doom in "Fantastic Four." So, it's not a slam-dunk. but, yeah. Nobody needs four goodie two-shoes like Mr. Fantastic and Sue Storm. Go right for Lord Malfoy and the House of Slytherin. Death to Muggles!

The Vatican has a secret underground vault where the secrets of the Dark Side of the Force are hidden away. Tom Hanks knows how to find it.

After "Batman Begins," the Illinois Film Commission got on board. An expensive hotel in downtown Chicago allowed the film crew to take over their penthouse.

FROM A REVIEW: TDK is not a movie for children. It is intense. We saw many children at our showing, some of whom were crying and wanted to leave. Heath Ledger’s Joker is an evil god of chaos. He’s a psychopath. He’s scary. All he wants is pain and disorder. He wants to watch people eat each other alive and there’s nothing you can say, nothing you can give him, nothing you can do to save yourself or your loved ones. Every time Ledger appeared on the screen, there was a buzz in the theatre. You could feel this weird energy. The wild card is Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent. If you don’t buy his transformation from truly good guy (”the best of us all”) into... something else, the whole movie would fall apart

Create a movie that people WANT to see. That's one of the Rules.

Rule #1 is, "Find a hero who changes. Who is able to win a victory at the end of the Act Three that he would have lost at the beginning. So the audience feels the journey was worth two hours."

In "Jaws," Sheriff Brody had no idea how to hunt a shark. He was afraid of the water. But he met a scientist (Hooper, Richard Dreyfuss) who tracked fish with sonar, and a shark hunter (Quint, Robert Shaw) who had stared at sharks for hours after his ship went down in WW II, and Brody changed. He learned how to kill a shark.

Does it really matter how scary the movie is, if people don't want to see it? I mean, come on. A mental hospital near Boston? You'd have to pay me to go there.

But "Sleepless In Seattle".... a sexy woman has been dumped by a series of hunky guys who like the sex but can't stand the conversations afterward. She listens to a radio program... and an architect in Seattle has just lost his wife, and he's lonely. he can't let go of her memory.... so this sexy woman goes up to Seattle to put him out of his misery? Before some other woman hooks up with this loser? She sends a letter to the man's son, "Meet me on the top of the Empire State Building.... just like the movie."

find the weird energy. If you can make the audience afraid to walk out to their cars after the movie ends, great.

Marie wrote: "You finally pushed me too far - I'm gonna "take it to the mattresses!"

Okay, Marie, I will be looking forward to this. Be sure to give me a ticket to the bout. Two thumbs up in advance! But before you channel your inner Starbuck, may I suggest changing your URL first, if that is possible at all, and then testing to see if it passes through Roger's Hickory Smoke Spam yummy filter? A URL that doesn't go through means it has lost its function. If the problem persists, there are two other options.

Your website is no doubt inculpable. I love your Tuscany. But as it happens, these filters tend to list commercial websites as adverts. Dang, Marie, they don't know what's good for them!! (^_^) A way to counter this, other than changing your URL, is to request the server to whitelist you.

Or, you could create a stand-in link at Google Blogspot (free, and we'd be interested to see what your artistic blog would look like; also, this could be more effective as advertisement, methinks) and have that display the ultimate link to your website.

Marie wrote, "But it amounts to a drop in the bucket. It's just more fun and exciting to see the parts guys are getting in the movies - even video games: The Force Unleashed! :)

Don't fret, Marie. Since history repeats itself, a time may once again come when men, out of stupidity, will lead themselves to their own destruction. When that time comes, to whom can the Earth fall back to but you women? There is a certain truth to John Boorman's Excalibur when after the battle had been fought, only Percival remained.

Michael Douglas may get the limelight in The American President, but without Annette Bening, the Chief Executive's life would have been miserable. So now we know who really runs the Oval Office and the EPA.

I think the BBC has done a remarkable job in bringing the Victorian classics to TV. Though, I'm not sure if the women portrayed therein would fit your liking. You certainly won't find Brunhilde amongst their crowd. Still, worth the time if only to shift the focus out of the men once in a while. Especially, try these three BBC adaptations from Elizabeth Gaskell, one of Roger's favorite Victorian authors (and also of Anna Marie of Switzerland). That is, if you haven't seen them already.

I myself am currently eyeing Masterpiece Theatre's The Duchess of Duke Street, the story of Louisa Trotter, a former scullery maid, and her rise to the echelons of Edwardian society. The BBC library is rich with stories about women; and as long as you avoid Dickens, which I somehow wouldn't advise for fear of receiving Roger's blistering censure, you should have a hell of a time immersing yourself into the lives of Victorian and Edwardian women. (Over two-fifths of my collections come from GB.)

You know, Marie, just the other day I mentioned Nancy Cato's All the Rivers Run in a previous blog. You somehow remind me of Delie Gordon, though perhaps you with more feistiness, but both equal in resolve, nonetheless. To my reckoning, All the Rivers Run remains one of the best soap operas out there.

Bill Hays on May 23, 2009 4:32 PM - "A female character... whose life is so exciting, we want to go back and watch the movie again. The whole two hours."

As long as you persist in approaching the issue from a male-centric world view, you'll never understand why your suggestions are akin to missing the point entirely - and ergo, why you're not making any headway. :)

In the United States, men already enjoy female characters they find exciting - and those are characters who pander to "their" fantasies and sensibilities; ie: women who don't threaten men for knowing their place in fiction and staying in it, and residing within parameters set for them by men. Your sex stands on the 65 yard line. Fair is when YOU move to the 50. Anything less, enables you to keep on standing there and I'm not interested in watching "that".

A position you enjoy moreover, only because the most important ticket buyer and representational of the mindset too often found behind Studios doors, is a selfish, white, homophobic, post-adolescent male unfairly enjoying a place of economic superiority. And also because an entire generation of little girls grew-up embracing a "male" definition of female self-empowerment thanks to Madison Avenue.

And you'd know all that, if you read more than just your own point of view being mirrored back to you. If you ventured into uncharted territory from time to time, like a Feminist blog for example. And exposed yourself to new ways of thinking and seeing the world. If you already do, it doesn't show in your posts. At least I can't see it - not the way I can see it in Roger's writing.

I can see his Feminism for it shines brightly - while still admiring his overt masculinity and impressive power; hell, the Powers That Be named a STAR after him, did you know that? Although they clearly didn't want the other film critics to get jealous so they spelt it backwards... :)

And I know that and more besides because I'll read almost anything! I'm always exploring stuff; even if sometimes it can be unsettling. I just don't live in those places or announce my presence. Ie: the equivalent of a scary Frat house populated by angry misogynists, the darker corners of the internet. But only because I've also read "The Art of War" and it's basically recon; smile.

I also check out new recipes over at Martha Stewart, so I keep it in balance. Point is, I've made my point and I know it. :)

"Ask yourself, How much FUN can one person possibly have?"

So asks a poverty of imagination for failing to see the infinite possibilities...

And so here endeth the lesson. :)

Reply to: As long as you persist in approaching the issue from a male-centric world view, you'll never understand why your suggestions are akin to missing the point entirely - and ergo, why you're not making any headway. :)

Not at all. Exactly the opposite, in fact. Until you acknowledge what the problem is, and define it, you're unlikely to come up with the solution.

Reply to: In the United States, men already enjoy female characters who pander to "their" fantasies and sensibilities;

According to Tom Hanks, "The Godfather" is the greatest movie ever made.

In the world of "The Godfather," ONLY men are allowed to take part in the family business. Women are lied to, kept in the dark, and they spend their mornings going to church, lighting candles, and raising the children and grandchildren.

A movie where immigrants rely on "Godfathers" to protect their interests, when the police and judges won't.

Why is "The Godfather" so successful? Because it tells people what they want to hear. That men run the world and women run the household.

Reply to: the most important ticket buyer is a selfish, white, homophobic, post-adolescent male ...a "male" definition of female self-empowerment

The ticket buyers for "The Godfather" are... a large group of Americans. Many of them who remember immigrant parents. "The Godfather" shows the America they want to live in.

Where traditional values are respected and admired.

"The Godfather" cost $ 6.2 million and brought in hundreds of millions to the studio. that's what they want. A movie that instantly becomes a cultural standard AND makes enormous profits.

The dividing line is "Independence Day." It brought in ten times its' production cost. That's the goal. The studio invests $40 million and gets back $400 million.

Let's look at the list:

The Incredible Spider-Man
Jurassic Park - Dr. Grant (Sam Neill) discovers children
Lord of the Rings - Seven males unite to defeat an evil army
Cast Away - Tom Hanks and a volleyball, Helen Hunt as love interest
Harry Potter - a male hero, two sidekicks
Star Wars - Luke skywalker, numberous sidekicks, primary sidekick a droid
The Dark Knight

There's nothing that I see on this list.... where a movie would be improved, or have a higher box office, if the lead was played by a woman. In fact, most of them would "lose the magic." (Maybe Cast Away?)

What you haven't shown - where you've failed - is to show that a movie with a female in the lead can generate enough box office to keep a studio out of bankruptcy.


Cutthroat Island - $ 98 million in production costs and a female lead (Geena Davis) no one cared about

Lara Croft, Tomb Raider - second one sank the franchise

Catwoman - Halle Berry can't climb out of the litter box

OK, let's try this one:

"Sleepless In Chicago" -

A radio station in Chicago plays "love songs overnight" with a female DJ, sexy voice. The name of the show is "Sleepless In Chicago" and they encourage the audience to call in, tell their story of lost love, and dedicate a song. Six of the most popular call-ins are invited by the host to attend a meeting, where they will be introduced to new potential love interests. They show up, are poisoned, all of them die. And the police discover that someone went into the host's office at the radio station, plugged a laptop into the phone lines, and faked her voice to invite these people to show up. So, a mass murderer is on the loose, and it's a woman. A psychotic woman determined to strike back at all the men who disappointed her. Because she blames men for her being lonely and unhappy. And the host is next.

Why does that work? Why not? would it be stronger with a male? Actually, the host of a radio show with "Advice for the Broken Hearted" would work better as a woman. And all of the dialogue for the villain could be taken from feminist blogs.

When you talk about movies, you can't make general statements.

If you say "Movies would be better with strong female leads," that simply isn't borne out by the facts. Most of the successful movies would be worse with female leads.

Men want to imagine that women are eager and excited about having sex with them. Real women seldom feel that way. That's why it's called "fiction." A fantasy world.

You can create a Fantasy World for women, but will anyone buy tickets? Show me THAT fantasy world and let me judge.

So far, you haven't figured out the problem. What kind of a movie would attract huge numbers of women? Spell it out. Explain it to me. Because what I'm saying is, it doesn't exist.

War movies sell tickets. Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, they're all war movies. And men buy the tickets.

It would be nice if you could come up with a movie where women go on a journey... AND earn ten times the production cost for the studio. Until you do, the studies are going to keep making "Batman" and "Spider-Man" and "Iron Man" - because that's how they stay in business.

OK, let's think about a movie. A movie called "The LAST movie you would ever think Roger Ebert would write." (No, not Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.)

A radio host who is on the air from ten pm until five am?

Reply to: . If you ventured into uncharted territory from time to time, like a Feminist blog for example. And exposed yourself to new ways of thinking and seeing the world.

I see those bloggers as challenging the status quo, which makes them the villains.

Am I crazy, or does Carl Fredricksen look a lot
more like Warren Buffett than Ed Asner?

lets stop calling it feminism and start calling it equalism, if that is really the goal of the movement.

I was trying to think of a concept that would lend itself, or even better, require a female lead. "Titanic" worked better with a woman who survived. James Cameron was fairly ruthless in taking everything out of the story that wasn't aimed specifically at his target audience of young females.

In the original draft of "Good Will Hunting," the young genius applies for a job at the National Security Agenecy and gets tangled up in spy issues. Wisely, all of those subplots were removed, in order to focus on the relationship between Will (Matt Damon) and the psychiatrist sean (Robin Williams.)

Same thing happened with "E.T." Originally, Steven Spielberg was doiing research for a sequel to "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." He developed a story about a farm family that was terrorized gremlin-like extra-terrestrials. That concept was called "Night Skies" (from the first line of the script EXT - NIGHT SKIES) The aliens mistake cows for the most intelligent species on earth, etc, etc.

at the end of "Night Skies," one of the aliens is left behind on earth amd is befriended by an autistic boy. Spielberg decided to keep that part and start over. "I always wanted to tell the story of a child's reaction to his parents splitting up when he's still only about 10 years old," noted Spielberg, "and how it impacts the rest of his life. Perhaps E.T. was a subconscious fantasy of mine since childhood, to make myself feel less lonely in my life. It was a childhood dream of a special friend who rescues a boy from the sadness of divorce."

"I was shooting Raiders of the Lost Ark, a lonely director sitting in the middle of the desert in Tunisia, making a Saturday Matinee type of movie, and feeling a bit separated from myself, which often happens when you're directing. And then...BANG...this concept hit me. Suddenly, the story of E.T. flooded into my mind, and for the next couple of days, it began to take on a beginning, middle and an end."

Peter Coyote auditioned to play "Indiana Jones" and wound up playing the older version of Elliott, a scientist who had been dreaming about mankind's first contact with aliens since he was ten.

But my point is, you can develop a concept, and find a compelling relationship between two characters. and then, throw the rest of the script away. What the audience CARES about is the relationship between Elliott and ET, or Will Hunting and Sean.

"Lethal Weapon" had a former sniper in Vietnam whose wife dies in a traffic accident, finding a new surrogate family when he meets an older detective about to retire.

So, "Sleepless In Chicago." A woman is the host of a late night radio show where fans call in and dedicate love songs, and talk about their relationships. Maybe she's a Dr. Phil type. And one of the callers claims to be a young woman who was forced to join Hitler Youth in Germany, and when Hitler committed suicide, was talked into becoming part of a suicide pact. ie, the voice on the other end of the phone line claims to be a ghost who died in the Forties, and never got to experience True Love. And challenges the radio show host's basic beliefs about humanity?

What I'm thinking is, like "Up," the characters need to take over. You need to see Carl and Russell realize they need each other.

Reply to: Roger: The characters are as believable as any characters can be who spend much of their time floating above the rain forests of Venezuela. They're earnest and plucky, and one of them is an outright villain--snaky, treacherous and probably mad. Two of the three central characters are cranky old men... the third important character is a nervy kid.

I suppose you need a villain, although both "ET" and "Good Will Hunting" got along fine without one.

The idea of first contact with an intelligent vegetable from outer space.... only worked because Elliott was lonely and needed a friend. And when that friend left, everyone cried. "Ghost Whisperer" has ruined the market for ghost stories, so maybe instead of a ghost, something more original. But the emotions, the friendships, the relationships, the idea that a psychiatrist like Sean found a way to get past the obstacles in his own life during his arguments with young Will... how would you change that to fit with feminist ideals? I have no idea. But a late night radio talk show where one of the callers claims to be a ghost????

My point is, a great movie script is an organic whole. You can't talk about a plot without knowing who the characters are, and why they're important to us. And you can t say "the story should be about a woman who has the same exciting adventures as a man" without telling us what those adventures are. Because, once you write down what the adventure is, you'll probably realize that the story works better with two cranky old men and a boy. "Up" is a great example of a movie where the characters take over, as they should.


Having not seen 'Up' I can't comment on the effectiveness of the use of 3D.

I can see why a lot of people may dislike the process. But for myself this new wave of 3D impresses me in one particular way... the feeling of depth inside the screen. Earlier 3D movies were all about throwing things at the audience, but the feeling that I could just put my hand inside the screen is nice.

The most effective film so far for this feeling was 'Coraline' in which it felt like a puppet show, just in a very large box.

The 3D trailer for 'Up' presented some subtle use of 3D when the house is first taking over and flying over the neighbourhood and the underside of the house is superbly realised.

Why these films work in 3D is that they aren't trying to bludgeon you with the fact that they're 3D. The effects are being to enhance an already detailed image.

Whether or not it adds anything to the experience is purely subjective to the viewer. For me, as far as 'Coraline' and to a lesser extent 'Bolt' are concerned then yes it does add to the experience.

The thought of the interior of the Airship in 'Up' being realised using this 3D technique has me quite excited.

Thanks for reading.


I'm slightly put off by your comments about 3d, however it still won't stop me from watching the movie in that format. If there are any films that I would prefer to watch in 3d, I would have to go with Pixar's, as my impression of the company as always been that the aesthetics of their films are always secondary to the story. I imagine that with Pixar their intent is not to bombard the audience with hurling objects at them, but rather to enhance the viewing experience. I can't say much in terms of the bad aspects of 3d yet, as the only other movie I've seen in that format was Beowulf, and I was very impressed with that one. Maybe your opinion stands, I have yet to see. But in my opinion this movie and Avatar are the ones I have wanted to see in 3d, and I hope you are wrong.

Ebert: I was also impressed by "Beowulf."

There was an advanced screening in Altamonte, Florida that I was fortunate enough to attend. I saw the film in 2-D (I would have been happy either way since the movie was free thanks to a newspaper contest) and I was absolutely blown away. I loved the story and it gave me more laughs and moments of near tearfulness. When I walked out of the theater it reminded me of Walt Disney's saying, "For every laugh there should be a tear."

The film reminded me of several Hayao Miyazaki (absolutely love his work!) movies. I keep wondering if the people at Pixar got any of their inspiration for the movie from such films as "Kiki's Delivery Service" and "Castle in the Sky." It wouldn't surprise me in the least.

The interior of the airship also reminded me of the Nautilus submarine in the 1950s Disney movie "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." That movie showed a vessel that had several museum collections, a library, and even a pipe organ. I wonder if the animators got any inspiration from that movie as well.

Ebert: Pete Docter is a sincere admirer of Miyazaki.

I love you, Ebert, but, I think you're trapped in the seventies with your dismissive outlook on 3D. I really think you're shortchanging its capability of becoming an invaluable storytelling aid with the advances in its presentational technology. I agree the effectiveness of it varies from case to case, but with something like Beowulf - that didn't use it merely for perfunctory reasons - the spectacle aspect can be quite stunning. Monsters Vs. Aliens was a bad movie that was rendered wholly watchable for audiences outside of easily amused children thanks to the visual dimensionality.

this discusaion on video games as art is interesting; ill provide this scene from final fantasy X as evidence in the affirmative

this discusaion on video games as art is interesting; ill provide this scene from final fantasy X as evidence in the affirmative

The audience Hollywood wants is indeed the selfish, post-adolescent white homophobic male. It's not really right, though, to even call them post-adolescent because they're stuck in adolescence ... violent, hateful, vicious, sexually-aggressive would-be rapists, all, who want nothing more than to see women beaten half-to-death (or more) again and again. Their idea of a sexual fantasy? KILL BILL - where women are routinely beaten and bloodied over and over and still get up looking "hot." So they can be beaten again. Sex - violence - sex - violence - sex - violence, keep them coming, one after the other, again and again, faster and faster.

Quite probably the nadir came for me with ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES wherein Maid Marian can kick the living hell out of Robin Hood when her gender is disguised, but then once revealed to be a woman she gets led around by Alan Rickman's Sheriff by the hand ... and can't even lift one finger to defend herself. Why? Because when she was kicking the hell out of Robin, her gender was disguised - we weren't seeing a woman beat a man. Once revealed to be a woman, she can't defend herself because ... she's a woman.

Want more examples of this? BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM ... perfect example. Phantasm is a villain able to kick the hell out of mafioso and gangster thugs ... but when her mask comes off, and she's revealed to be a woman, she's suddenly defenseless. It's repugnant. Even movies like T2 and ALIENS, prized as examples of female strength, ultimately simply feature men played by women - violent egomaniacs with guns eager to kill, kill, kill. There is NO elemenent of femininity to Linda Hamilton or Sigourney Weaver in those roles.

Women are rape-objects and murder-objects in American cinema, right down to romantic comedies where the plot hinges around who has most or least abused the woman (which is usually the moral choice the woman has to make in choosing the beau - which one betrayed her least, or less-offendingly? Which one committed less emotional rape?). In children's films, even, girls are nothing but sex-objects that earn a "heyyyyy, baybee" even in movies about talking golden retrievers.

Try this - watch for women in commercials. See what they prioritize. Then compare it with movies. Is there ANY difference?

I am stunned that no one has made a comment about Coraline's use of digital 3d. It was, as you know, the first movie to ever be shot entirely in 3d to begin with. I havn't been able to see the 2d version of the film yet, but I'm not sure if some of the scenes, such as her running from the other mother through the tunnel, could work as well in 2d as they did in 3d. I guess I'll have to wait another month so I can get my hands on the Blu-ray. Cheers.

One other problem I seldom see mentioned re: the current 3-D fad is that these films can be a terrifying experience for younger kids, especially if those kids suffer from Sensory Processing Disorder. When we are lucky enough to find a theater that isn't inexplicably assaulting us with about 130dB of audio for children's movies, we now also have to hope they are screening the 2-D version of what we're trying to see at the same time. It's not easy.

I am really hopeful that we can take our son to see "Up" somewhere that isn't too loud or zooming images at our faces, though I'm somewhat resigned to waiting for the DVD.

From the first time I saw a preview for this, I thought the old guy looked remarkably like Mr. Ebert.

Ebert: But with a much healthier jaw.

Roger, your comments on 3-D need some clarification. Yes, all 3-D theater systems in use so far reduce the brightness to about 20% of the projection lamp's output. That's why theaters use MUCH brighter lamps for 3-D presentations. You can verify this, as you say, by taking off the glasses, and you see a blazingly bright screen. But it's not a fair comparison, for the same film, showing in 2-D down the hall of the multiplex will be shown with ordinary lower-output projection lamps. The screen brightness you experience in the two presentations may not be much different. Also, your review mentions the shutter-glasses. Many theaters are already using them. We saw "Monsters vs. Aliens" shown that way over a month ago. There is no reason why the colors should be in any way compromised with these glasses, though they are heavier sitting on your nose. We are still waiting for a film that uses 3-D intelligently. If you had your choice of seeing "Wizard of Oz" or "Lawrence of Arabia" in color or b/w, would you choose b/w? 3-D should be just another tool used for artistic dramatic effect. I can't tell you how many films I've seen and said "This is good, but would be so much better in 3-D." It is true that no practical 3-D viewing system can reproduce the world as we actually see it. We are playing with the subtle psychology of visual perception here, and so long as the eyes must focus their lenses at the distance of the screen, while converging anywhere from 3 feet to infinity (not the way the eyes normally work), the experience is only a "simulation" of what our eyes see in the real world. But this is true for color as well, for the film synthesizes a full spectrum of color from just three primary colors, and is therefore never truly "real". The movies synthesize an illusion of continuous motion from a series of still pictures. Again--fake. And let's not become like those audiophiles who declare (without evidence) that digital sound is inferior to the analog sound of vinyl recordings.

Trust me, this is not a critical note. But, what do you mean Russell "looks Asian-American?"

What does an Asian-American look like? I am American/Vietnamese. Born in Da Nang in 1968. I am blond with hazel eyes and a very fair complexion. Had Pixar animated Russell to appear as I, would you comment he appeared Asian-American? Why? Why not?

Aside - I wonder the protests of the oh so very caring Actors Equity should had the part of The Engineer in Miss Saigon?

Just a sore point for me. And as a Buckley conservative, I don't easily get sore. Curious.

Ebert: He looks Asian. And is American. Therefore, Asian-American. It would be misleading to call him simply "Asian," just as it would be to call our president simply "African." You describe yourself as as Asian-American who does not look particularly Asian. Fair enough. If Russell had hazel eyes, blond hair and a fair complexion, he would look like a Pixar-American.

Pixar's Up must not be confused with Russ Meyer's Up!, a nudie flick with script by Reinhold Timme (whoever he was.) Except in select theaters where we pull a bait and switch and show children the Russ Meyer film instead of the Pixar one.

Is it just me, or doesn't the guy with the glasses kind of look like you? He's got those brown pants and brown jacket you used to wear on "At The Movies". Take away a few wrinkles, and we have the animated you. :)

Ebert: Hmmm. Pete Docter joined us on an Ebert & Roeper Film Festival at Sea...

One thing about 3D that is glossed over: approximately 25% or more of the population either cannot, and will not ever, see it correctly or at all using current technology (glasses and the like) because they rely on two good eyes working properly. I fall in the latter category. 3D isn't an option for me, period. That's one reason there will always be flat, 2D screens.

It seems to me that all the people who think 3D is bad, haven't experienced it outside of a theme park or haven't experienced it in years.

I just watched UP in 3D, and the 3D only helped bring me into the story. I don't understand why people would think the image quality would be damaged.

The 3D version of the film comes brighter than the 2D because yes the glasses are tinted. It evens out the colors by brightening it more. UP doesnt use cheap shots to show off the 3D, and it is not distracting either.

PAY THE EXTRA MONEY! Besides it's worth it just because it's a digital image being projected on the screen. WAY better than film any way you cut it. No projector vibration, a whole lot brighter, and a whole lot sharper. Even Ebert liked star wars episode 2 in digital, and there was a reason why he disliked the film version (it was blurry). Dont be dumb, watch it the way it was meant to be seen. you won't regret it!

Mr. Ebert

I have been enjoying your reviews for longer than I can recall, but as a graduate of CU Boulder, I found myself pouring through this page of comments on UP and then wondering if you had ever done one of your Cinema Interuptus sessions on a 3D film. To be succinct, I guess I just think that the tool of 3D is ripe for dissection when it comes to story telling vs. gimmick vs. experience vs. the future.

I watched the first 3D film of my life recently, Coraline, and during the preview for UP prior to the feature i found myself flipping my glasses up and down to compare what I was seeing to what was projected. I guess I just became hyper aware again of the mechanics of cinema which are exciting but also gimmicky. I didn't know if i should feel the excitement of a nickleodeon or the consumerism of the experience.

Best wishes,

As a projectionist for the nation's largest theatre chain and a film lover I'd like add a quick take on the 3D debate.

Having seen UP in 3D and 2D now I think there is a noticeable difference. In my estimation this occurs not because of the digital vs film debate but because of the filters used to create 3D affect.

My theatre uses a digital projector with a 3D lens placed in front of the regular lens. This filter or lens is about 4 inches think and helps to create the majority of the 3D affect.

Having viewed both regular 2D and 3D projections on the same projector I can say certainly that the 3D filter dampens or darkens the image. On occasion I have had to remove the 3D filter after starting a 2D movie in the same theatre. Each time I have noticed an increase in the picture brightness.

Now this may be compensated by the fact that digital projections are free of splices, scratches or dust that occur with regular 35mm film.

As Roger and others have said many times digital projection is fantastic, but it may not yet top a well projected 35mm film.

You failed to mention the fact that the two main characters, Carl and Muntz are obvious tributes to Spencer Tracy and Kirk Douglas. I guess I have to assume that the similarities are intentional.

I've just come back to my motel room from seeing UP.
Emotional, touching, exciting, fun, quick little jokes here and there - all hallmarks of Pixel films. But the 3D - once you get use to the glasses and let your eyes adjust a bit to a slightly dimmed image - it is wonderful! There are scenes that made the 3D mandatory - the shots
from thousands of feet up in the sky looking down - the scenery, the house floating in an ocean of air. Beautiful. The 3D is handled with just the right touch - very few things fly through the air at you as you see in most 3D films. Like the advent of color and sound and wide screen, we are just now finding artists who can use the medium instead of having the medium use them.

One other thing - the plaintive cry of the bird.... it reminds me of the flying bird, (a roc?) in Heavy Metal. Then I am reminded of the music by Elmer Bernstein in that film - when will we ever hear the like again?

Could it be that the "brighter" palette of the 2-D version is a deliberate overcompensation for the "toning down" of the 3-D glasses--and that the colors WITH the glasses are the intended ones?

BTW, one of the most effective uses of 3-D and a lot of fun, too, is Disney's "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience" at the Epcot Center. They hand out glasses, and while you wait to get in, you see a video of Eric Idle warning you to wear your "safety glasses" while in the auditorium.

Ebert: Your observation about stop-motion is probably key to the look of "Coraline." It was a 3D picture of a 3D reality, not a 3D picture of a 2D reality.

What?? Real life is 3D, and did you know that computer animation is called 3D since the models are actually built in 3 dimensions?

Do you know that 3D has a long history, that the Civil War was photographed in 3D, for example? I suppose that was a gimmick, too... ??

I adored this movie. I took my children as a way to celebrate the beginning of summer and found myself as caught up in it as they were. We all need to be reminded that our adventures are in our every day existence. Sweet Mr. Fredrickson aids us all in adjusting our focus.

A question: About the talking dog: Is its name Dog, Doug, or Dug? I've seen the varying spellings everywhere, some even within the same article, and I haven't seen the movie yet so I can't check the end credits.

Ebert: Dug, it says here.

How do you take a concept from a blank page to a finished movie like "Up"

Over at Pixar, "Andrew and Brad seem to work better by just putting their heads down, locking themselves in a closet and just writing," Docter says.

(That's how some of the best ideas emerge. You go into a dark room, crawl into bed, pull a blanket over your head, and don't come out until you have created ten minutes. I haven't tried a closet, but I don't have kids, either.)

However, there's another way. Work with a writing partner. Or, sit in a room and talk to people.

Docter: "For me, I find conversation really helps a lot. I love sitting around and talking around ideas and plotting things out."

Docter and Peterson would scribble down the basic bones of what they needed for a scene, and then they'd follow that with a list of possible gags that could happen along the way. "The challenge there is always how many of these things we can thread the string through and still get a through-line that we like," Docter says. They kept their brainstorming sessions light and

*** would basically free-associate with one another, trying to theorize what a character would do ***

or, often,

*** what they thought the audience would expect to happen, and then go the opposite way. ***

(There's an interesting book by Robert McKee called "Story," where he uses "Chinatown" as an example of how to thwart the audience's expectations in every scene. The more complex a character's motivation, the more the audience enjoys following him on an adventure.)

Once the duo had a sequence or scene plotted out, Peterson would go off on his own to try to get it on the page.

Peterson and Docter's script relishes in subtext...

(3) from the cruel irony that Carl's devotion to his lost wife has stifled the qualities she admired most in him,

(4) to the small, sad moments when we realize just how lonely a kid Russell is, and how desperate he is for a father figure that genuinely cares. (end- from Creative Screenwriting)

That's an interesting problem in screenwriting.

How do you give your primary character a desperate need, without making him appear weak? When you watched "Casablanca" for the first time, did you understand why Rick was sitting in the dark, drinking, because an old girl friend came in with her husband?

"Up" is going to be used as an example of "great storytelling" for years to come.

And I think that's due, in part, to sitting down with a writing partner who won't let you get away with "nuke the fridge."

I saw the movie in 3D. I did pay $2.50 extra for the glasses rental, but so what. I think I got my share of enjoyment out of it.

The glasses were not anaglyphic, nor were they mechanized with speedy shutters; they had polarized lenses. I did not particularly notice the color of the movie being affected; I don't think it is by that kind of process.

I will say that I think the 3D did improve the experience. Or, at least, it didn't detract from it. I managed to get lost in the story just as much as in any other Pixar movie. It just felt…bigger somehow. And I actually did feel a twinge of vertigo at the looking-straight-down scenes; I don't remember ever doing that for other movies.

But that's a personal opinion, and it may not hold true for other viewers.


I loved Up, and in general I am supportive of the idea that 3-D done right is not necessarily a bad thing.

When I viewed Up today, the film-maker's vision was marred by technical problems with the 3-D presentation.

I sincerely hope that the lackluster 3-D experience I had at a screening of Up on May 29 was merely due to operator error by the person(s) responsible for setting of the auditorium where I saw the film.

I have viewed many RealD presentations without difficulty (Monster House, Bolt, Coraline, Monsters versus Aliens).

I first suspected problems when I perceived an uncomfortable "flickering" sensation during the "Partly Cloudy" short preceding Up. By covering each eye in turn, I was quickly able to deduce that there was strongly noticeable color banding ( in both the right eye and left eye images as viewed through the RealD glasses. To make matters worse, the colors of the bands frequently mismatched between the two eyes (e.g. in one instance a band with a green tint in one eye had a pink tint in the other eye). Removing the RealD glasses and viewing the screen with naked eyes showed the "combined" image without any noticeable banding. The color banding, and the color mismatch in the banding between both eyes through the RealD glasses resulted in a viewer experience similar to the "flicker" or "jangle" effect that many folks will recognize from the color difference between eyes when viewing "anaglyph" 3-D material with the old blue/red glasses.

I'm curious to know whether viewers at other theaters have encountered this as well. The banding effect and color mismatches were frequently noticeable in Carl's chin when he was facing the camera. The bodies of the cloud's during "Partly Cloudy" also strongly exhibited this effect. In a familiar scene from the TV ads, where Russell is standing on the porch, pressing his back against the exterior of the house and asking Carl to let him in, the effect was very noticeable on Russell's right cheek when we was shown in closeup (the cheek "closest" to the viewer in the 3-D image). The color banding resulted in the "closest" or most pronounced point of Russell's cheek (it's topographic peak if you will), being a roughly circular "patch" in the color banding pattern (whereas the changes in his skin tone due to lighting effects should be visible only as a smooth gradient). In my viewing of this scene, that semicircular patch on his cheek appeared as a different color in my left eye versus my right eye. I describe that example not because it was the most disruptive example, but because it is a highly recognizable scene which will afford other viewers the opportunity to inspect closely for the problem.

There are also many instances where I noticed "ghosting" in the left eye while viewing through the RealD glasses. That is, rather than seeing only the image intended for the left eye, my left eye was also perceiving a slight double image: the second image being the one intended for the right eye, which the left lens SHOULD be filtering out.

One very obvious instance of this ghosting was the exterior view of Muntz' cave when the heroes first approach it. The tall, dark narrow crack in the cliff showed a very noticeable ghost image slightly offset horizontally, overlapping with the contrasting color of the bright cliff face.

Again, there were many instances where these effects were unpleasant or distracting. I mention the above specific instances to provide an easily recognized point of reference that other viewers may use to readily check for the problems.

I traded RealD glasses with my girlfriend several times during the screening, and we both noticed the problems, regardless of which glasses we were wearing. I hope it was merely a problem with the setup of this particular theater. I also tried moving to a few other positions in the auditorium in case we had inadvertantly selected seats in a visual "twilight zone" relative to the projection. The problem persisted.

I had been eagerly anticpating this film (and I loved it despite the technical problems). In order not to miss any part of the film, I decided to tolerate the problems and alert the theater staff afterward.

On the way out, I politely alerted the theater manager to ghosting problems I perceived at my screening (for the sake of simlicity and time, I didn't launch into a description of the color banding problem, in retrospect perhaps I should have). He seemed quite attentive to my concerns and thanked me for bringing it to his attention. He also advised me that a technician was on site setting up another auditorium for 3-D, and he would follow up with him regarding the problem I described from my screening.

I hope this was an isolated incident and that they were able to correct it. This was at a RealD screening in the greater Toronto area.

This was the first time I've had such a negative experience with RealD, versus many positive experiences with it (including but not limited to the same theater).

Has anyone else noticed similar shortcomings at other RealD screenings of Up?

Ebert: It is inspiring to read someone who has actually seen a movie rather than simply looked at it.

Just saw 'Up' tonight and enjoyed it thoroughly. That opening sequence where Carl and Ellie go through their life together was great. Probably one of the most "human" animated movies I've ever seen. Also, I enjoyed the blog entry on the 3-D issue. I'm glad I didn't see it in 3-D.

If I may make one comment, though. I don't think they were actually "robotic dogs," as you referred to them in this blog and the review on your site. It was my understanding that they were actually dogs, they just used robotic devices to speak. Not a huge deal, but some may be confused when reading this.

Also, I can't seem to find this anywhere, and am curious. How does one gain entry into a festival such as Cannes. Is it invite-only, or can one buy a ticket somehow?

Ebert: Robotic, but not robots.

You need a paid pass. There are various categories. Check out their web site:

An attractive and cheaper alternative is Toronto.

I have been a fan of stereo still photography for many years, but outside of theme park rides, have been reluctant to view any theatrical releases in that format.

That said, I decided that if anyone was going to do "3D" right, it would have to be Pixar, and sure enough, th subtlety with which they use the medium is admirable. There is very little of the "spear in the eye" gimmickry used in other films, just some lovely spacious effects. As a matter of fact, most of the time I was just so engrossed in the storytelling that the "3D gee-whiz" factor was forgotten completely.

Granted, the polarized glasses do dim the colors a bit, but it's not egregious. I didn't notice the ghosting and color banding mentioned by the previous reviewer in my theater. In whatever dimension, just go see the film.

Did anyone else see the similarity between the silent sequence and La Maison en Petits Cubes (winner of Oscar animated short last year)?

Well, it's hard to find a 2D showing these days with picture quality that isn't awful. Sheesh.

I loved Up, but I did not love the way it was presented at a local chain theater that specializes in "upscale" amenities. They add leather chairs, 21+ screenings, and alcohol sales, but they can't even get the damn picture right.

The geometry was entirely off. The bottom of the image was much wider than the top of the image. The framing was off in that there was a large blank strip on the right hand side of the screen. The screen itself had an odd texture that you could see during especially bright scenes, like the screen had been worn down or something.

However, the movie was so great that I could not bring myself to leave and ask for a refund. That's how good this damn film was. But how am I going to be convinced to go see a movie in 3D when they can't even get 2D right?

There is one theater that I go to that always has picture perfect image quality but it's an hour's train ride away. If I had known what I know now about my local chain theater, I would have made the extra effort to see it at my usual theater.

I just got back from seeing Up in 3D. It was better than most 3D films I've seen in that it didn't have focus problems. In every other 3D film I've seen, in certain scenes parts of the frame would be in focus and other parts out of focus, to draw the viewer's attention to a certain part of the screen. The effect in 3D, however, is not for the viewer to smoothly and seamlessly focus in a certain spot, but for him to suddenly find himself trying desperately to focus on the out-of-focus element and being unable to. It's especially bad when the scene shifts focus, say from a character in the foreground to a character in the background. The problem is that focus in a 3D film is real, not a matter of one part of the image being clear and another fuzzy. The viewer actually does focus, the same way he does in real life. So, really, every frame of a 3D film should be in focus, because it is the viewer, not the camera, doing the focusing.

But that's one of the reasons I hope 3D remains a gimmick and not something, like color, that is a must for each new film. There are some wonderful artistic effects to be gained by manipulating focus. Just look at Wall•E! Focus is valuable to both storytelling and visual artistry. 3D loses that. Soft focus just gives the viewer a headache.

The other big reason I dislike 3D is: Hayao Miyazaki will never make a 3D movie. What is he — and the other creators of traditional cel animation — supposed to do if the world embraces 3D as the new color? Some of the most artistic films ever created are in the 2D-only traditional animation medium. Disney is apparently converting Beauty and the Beast to 3D, but that has "gimmick" written all over it. And frankly, I wouldn't want to see it in 3D, or, for that matter, Howl's Moving Castle, or My Neighbor Totoro, to say nothing of Spirited Away.

I quite agree with you about both the tremendous quality of UP and the excess of the 3D format. A couple of years ago, I took my son to see the 3D version of TIM BURTON'S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. It was nice, but for me at least, 3D didn't add anything that wasn't already in the glorious 2D version of the movie.

One of the best 3D movies ever made was "Kiss me Kate", the musical, in 1953.

There isn't much in the way of stuff flying at the camera, but lots of deep hallways, vertiginous camera angles, and people looking at themselves in mirrors. Handled well, Stereoscopic 3D makes you feel like you are in the room with the characters. There are parts of "Up" that achieve this, precisely because of the attention to detail that is the hallmark of Pixar's work.

In lesser hands, it is indeed a distraction.


If you're worried about 3D's cheapening effect on the experience of UP, I encourage you to give it a try and compare the movie itself to the trailers that run before it. Nearly all the ads that ran in the theater I went to last night were hocking other computer-animated features, and all sported the 3D effect to make their rascally heroes burst out of the screen and force the audience to duck as meatballs flew through the air. Look! Look! Look at us! They seemed to cry. Fun and diverting for a couple minutes, sure, but pointless after not too long.

Then came "UP". Rather than deploy a shameless gimmick, the Pixar folks used the 3rd Dimension to add more depth to an already beautiful frame. The effect was to take us INTO the screen, not to jump out AT us. And that's pretty much the whole philosophy of Pixar's storytelling and moviemaking no matter what fancy tools they're using. I never feel like my face is being shoved into the stew by a kitchen full of insecure cooks. I'm handed a spoon and allowed to smell, taste, and enjoy.

I'm sure you're right that it's just as good in 2D, but try to allow a little faith in the good folks at Pixar and see if you don't find something to enjoy in the 3D version.

Also, in response to some of the complaints I read above: I wore the 3D specs over my own glasses (which are pretty darn thick), and was never uncomfortable. I didn't lose any color in the image, either. And, to top it all off, despite the theatre holding a full crowd, I ended up sitting between a couple of really nice folks. So the movie-going experience still has some life left in it, as long as someone's making good movies for us all to go see together.


If you're worried about 3D's cheapening effect on the experience of UP, I encourage you to give it a try and compare the movie itself to the trailers that run before it. Nearly all the ads that ran in the theater I went to last night were hocking other computer-animated features, and all sported the 3D effect to make their rascally heroes burst out of the screen and force the audience to duck as meatballs flew through the air. Look! Look! Look at us! They seemed to cry. Fun and diverting for a couple minutes, sure, but pointless after not too long.

Then came "UP". Rather than deploy a shameless gimmick, the Pixar folks used the 3rd Dimension to add more depth to an already beautiful frame. The effect was to take us INTO the screen, not to jump out AT us. And that's pretty much the whole philosophy of Pixar's storytelling and moviemaking no matter what fancy tools they're using. I never feel like my face is being shoved into the stew by a kitchen full of insecure cooks. I'm handed a spoon and allowed to smell, taste, and enjoy.

I'm sure you're right that it's just as good in 2D, but try to allow a little faith in the good folks at Pixar and see if you don't find something to enjoy in the 3D version.

Also, in response to some of the complaints I read above: I wore the 3D specs over my own glasses (which are pretty darn thick), and was never uncomfortable. I didn't lose any color in the image, either. And, to top it all off, despite the theatre holding a full crowd, I ended up sitting between a couple of really nice folks. So the movie-going experience still has some life left in it, as long as someone's making good movies for us all to go see together.


Great review. Carl does bear some slight resemblance to you in appearance, in my opinion (which made it more amusing). Anyways, keep up the great work!


You are so wrong about 3D! I'd never seen anything in 3D before besides some stupid Honey I Shrunk the Kids thing at Disneyland years ago. The 3D in Up totally works. You know that feeling you get when you walk up to the edge of a cliff and stare down into the vast space below? Yes, with the 3D I felt that quite a bit. I must admit, I was a little distracted by the 3D at the beginning while little Carl was at the movies, but it also could've been because I was very tired and it was past midnight and I had just watched Frost/Nixon.

The 3D adds so much depth and immerses you quite a bit in the story. I'll probably see it again in 2D, but for me, this first time experience seeing a 3D movie was exceptional, and Pixar should be rewarded with more than just the deserved positive reviews they've gotten for the story, animation, characters, and emotional experience this movie provides. Up deserves recognition and respect for its completely practical and purposeful use of the 3D technology. I only remember one time where they tried to make something jump at you, and it rocked!

Yes! Finally a Pixar movie where someone is not getting lost and needs to be found/ needs to get home.! I thought that was their secret formula to the plot.

I feel the need to echo the sentiment about 3D. I watched both "Monsters vs Aliens" and "Up" in 3D, and it provides an interesting dichotomy in the approach. Whereas "Monsters" had a definite tendency to abuse the 3D effect to make things pop out and distract, "Up" had no moments where it did so. Rather, the effect was subtle and added a level of dimensionality to the film. There was nothing that popped forward, only levels that moved back, making the world deeper, rather than distracting, as is the downfall of most movies incorporating 3D.

That said, though, when I took the glasses off to see the true color, the vibrancy was splendid. It's a tradeoff in this case, and a reasonably fair one, although the 2D version is probably a better investment for the vibrancy and beauty of the pallette.

I guess I can see why Ebert would be skeptical about the value of the 3D, but I just saw _Up_ in 3D, and it was really, really cool. I didn't feel like the colors were "dim" or "dingy", and there was no "extra" stuff thrown in just for the sake of 3D.

The fact that Ebert likes the movie in 2D shows that the film has a strong core which can only be enhanced by the extra depth. I agree with David Strugar's comments above--_Up_ 3D brings you INTO the screen, it doesn't cheapen itself by constantly getting in your face.

So many scenes were just breathtakingly cool---the house floating in the rain with the giant airship floating in the background darkness! Wow! So beautiful! So "real" feeling, it really draws you into it to be able to look down from the floating house and feel like that green mat of jungle really is far below!

I agree with Ebert that part of the push for 3D is to combat piracy, but maybe that's what the movie industry NEEDS---something new and creative to shake it up and make it more enhanced, more interesting, more FUN.

Sure, many movies will probably mis-step with 3D and make disposable, gimmick-laden junk, but I think a film like _Up_ shows what an enveloping, touching experience 3D can provide!

Bottom line is, I can't wait to see more movies in 3D! I doubt they'll all be as good as _Up_, but this medium definitely holds promise. Now I really want to see some live-action 3D films. _Drag Me to Hell_ would have been AWESOME in 3D! :)

I have to wait till July 31 to see this. Aaarrrggghhh!!!

I can't see 3D films. I mean I physically cannot see them. My left eye has horrible vision, while my right is nearly perfect. Even though I wear eyeglasses, over the years my brain has compensated for the imbalance by registering most of my vision through my right eye.

So those absurd little 3D glasses just don't work on me. All I see is an oddly-colored blur, and inside of 20 minutes, I have a splitting headache.

Perhaps someday movies will be holographic. If so, I might pay extra to watch one. But until then, I'm with Mr. Ebert. 3D films are an annoying gimmick, and the sooner they die off the better.

Alas Ebert, you are correct.

3D is a demoralizing test of willpower. The constant fidgeting of the one-size-fits-all glasses as they slid down my nose, up goes the balloons and down goes my glasses, ran my experience amok.

Worst was the screening. Oh, my imagination wanted to devour the thousands of balloons but it couldn't. 3D dulled my world and dimmed my creation. I wanted to rip the spectacles off and tell them to straighten the layering, focus.

Drabs...poignancy lost to technology. And four more dollars, for what?

I really hope 3D is just a fad. I recently saw My Bloody Valentine 3D and it was a rather painful experience because I could not get the 3D glasses to fit correctly over my own glasses. So I got a headache, couldn't watch the movie without the glasses because the ghosting effects were so distracting, and the colors were washed out. My husband got a headache too. Basically, it was really hard to get into the actual movie/story with the 3D distraction.

Not even Cloverfield gave me a headache.

I just hope when Avatar comes out there's a 2D version for those that can't watch 3D without experiencing pain.

There is no IMAX theater in odds of finding the best 3D experience up here are astronomically low. I'm glad there was a 2D version of Up, I truly loved the movie and had a blast watching it.

I was one of the few here in Osaka who ventured out to the IMAX theater and spend the money to see U23D. Of course I thoroughly enjoyed it, being a U2 fan. Although Osaka is Japan's second largest metropolis, the band haven't ventured out this way, so the film was the next best thing to being at a concert. It was probably *better* than a concert because you could be closer.

I'm not sure if you're a fan of concert films, Roger. I tend to think you're not, judging by a couple comments I've seen you make in the past. In U23D's case, of course, the point of the film was the music and concert experience. Works great for fans, but for those who aren't, well.... Of the 3D, it was good, but after awhile I didn't notice it actually because it felt like I was *there*. Perhaps it was not necessary, but I think in this case it tended to add to the film/experience.

I think that probably says a good thing about that usage of 3D (in that particular film) -- that I tended to forget about the 3D itself. If I noticed it more, I would take it as a distraction, which is what I think you may feel about 3D in general.

Roger Ebert: What they find at Paradise Falls and what happens there I will not say. But I will describe Charles Muntz's gigantic airship that is hovering there.

And in so doing, you have described what happens there. You also revealed this part of the plot by earlier mentioning that Muntz is a central character, and subsequently describing it and the setting he lives in.

Honestly, Roger, I enjoying reading your reviews every week, and I know it can sometimes be hard to articulate you analysis of a film without running into that minefield known as Spoilers, but can't you put bookend sensitive material like this with Spoiler Warnings?

Ebert: Come on. How could I review the movie and not mention Muntz? Find me one critic who was able to to pull that off.

It's the best Pixar movie ever made. Thank you Mr. Catmull. Go see it in 3D and 2D and make your own mind up. As for the 3D version, it's a luminance vs. depth perception problem, that goes back 200 years,folks! In any format, this movie is an INSTANT classic. Why the censors rated this PG instead of G is beyond me! My reccomendation: see it in 3D. It's worth every extra dime!

3-D aside, I have to say, I am frustrated by the free ride that you and other movie critics continue to give Pixar, even when the quality of their work has been steadily declining for years. The opening sequence of Up (through Carl and Ellie's romance and marriage) reached the pinnacle of what computer animation is capable of. Like the first third of Wall-E, it told its story entirely through visuals, in a way that a live action film would simply not be capable of.

But for the remainder of Up, I felt as though I were watching a Dreamworks or Nickelodeon feature, not Pixar. What made Toy Story, Finding Nemo, A Bug's Life, Ratatouille, so remarkable, is that they brought to life unexpected animals and objects in unique and clever ways. Think of the myriad of lifeforms in Finding Nemo -- in Up, instead of making full use of its exotic "rainforest" location (snakes? poisonous frogs? piranhas?) we get one silly bird and the oldest talking animal in the book -- the dog. What could possibly have possessed Pixar to turn to the old talking dog cliche? I am genuinely interested in an explanation on that one.

I don't know why I seem to be the odd-one-out on this issue. Is everyone just so jaded by each new Ice Age or Madagascar or Shark Tale that they'll take whatever Pixar gives us just because it's marginally better? I think it's time someone holds their feet to the fire and challenges them to return to the quality of their early work. Though with a sequel to Cars already on the horizon, their worst-reviewed film yet, it doesn't appear that they care very much what the critics have to say anyway.

It's true that this film more than any other (save perhaps those teen concert films which I did not see) can be enjoyed in 2D with absolutely no loss and the gain of a brighter picture and no glasses to wear.

However you should know that XpanD 3D is out there and being seen by the masses, not just those in tuxes. In the Chicago area theatres in Gurnee and Orland Park are using it.

Xpand 3D is just one of several digital 3D systems currently in use. The others are Real D, Dolby 3D, and Master Image 3D.

Also, there are a handful of theatres around the country that have installed a 2nd digital projector so that each eye's image is beamed by a separate machine. This is used with simple polarizing filters and inexpensive glasses and yields by far the brightest picture. It's more expensive but there's no royalty fee like with RealD. This is the system used by the so-called "fake" IMAX theatres when they are in 3D mode but anyone can do it if they are willing to spring for a 2nd very expensive projector.

I realized this was a masterfully told movie by expert, assured filmmakers about five minutes in. The opening montage was brilliantly told with the assured hand of an expert who knows his craft. From there, every moment topped the other.

I felt assured that this movie would be excellent, but I had no idea how it would not only tell a story well, as many Pixar movies have done, but tell such a sharply defined and unusual story so well. "Up" never stops to pander and never plays anything broad. Every moment is driven by character.

Every moment comes from character and is never played for broad effect. And there are so many moments that are so suggestive and evocative, like when we see how the light passes through the balloons of Fredrickson onto other people's homes and through their windows. We see more vividly what is going on than we would if the subject were merely portrayed directly on film.

The silent montage at the beginning is some of the best, most cinematic storytelling in film. It evokes and suggests with simple gestures and movements. It never winks at the audience and never pauses to reflect on its own story. It simply observes what appears to happen naturally with Fredrickson, Russel, a house floating by balloons, Kevin the bird, and Dug the dog.

According to Chuck Viane, distribution chief for Disney, nearly a third of the audience was adults without children. "I think Pixar has a way of turning stories into 'gotta see' movies for adults, Pixar takes their time. They'll tweak a story over and over until they're satisfied. The highest compliment you can pay to them is they're in no rush and get the job done right."

I've read two complaints about "Up."

(1) Chris: The opening sequence showing Carl and Ellie's romance reached the pinnacle of what computer animation is capable of But for the remainder of Up, I felt as though I were watching a Nickelodeon feature

(2) Three major roles, no females.

Maybe they signed off on the story too soon, when it needed a few more tweaks.

For example, when Carl and Russell get to the rain forest, they find Charles Muntz has died, and been stuffed. Before he died, he married a native girl, and now she's taken command of the airship.

If Carl was a boy when he saw the first newsreel, and he's 78 when he starts his adventure, it wouldn't be unusual for Muntz to already be dead.

I saw a book called "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" in a bookstore. Maybe Muntz could be an elderly zombie, who only comes alive when his wife uses the right potion.

Some ideas are good, others not so good. But you've got to put them on the table and discuss them before you can decide. That's how the creative process works... and the creative process is what makes Pixar so successful.


I just got back from "Up," and loved it. But I have a question: Do you feel any pity for Charles Muntz, who seems to have been driven mad by society's indictment against his credibility more so than the bird itself? Don't you think Docter and his writers should've perhaps added a sequence at the end depicting some sort of proof that the bird exists? You know, to clear Muntz's name. Yes, I know he tried to kill Russell and Carl, but he was Carl's and Ellie's childhood hero, who inspired the club that brought them together.

I only mention this because it may have explained why Carl was able to return to the United States and set up his ice cream shop. Don't you think Carl would have been arrested on sight for violating his court-ordered retirement? But maybe Carl never cleared his name either, like Charles, and the airship that floats above the ice cream shop serves as a getaway vehicle. Maybe I like that better, actually.

Ebert: I think we have to try to keep the plots in animated family films out of the court system.

The first half of "Up" is utterly brilliant. It contains more potent and poetic drama than anything likely to be released all year. But the second half leaves much to be desired. It degenerates into a "Monster vs. Aliens" style romp that fails to even come close to the artful storytelling featured in the first act.

The name "Charles Muntz" has to be a riff on "Charles Mintz" -- the man seen by Disney fans as quite the villain in early Disney history. Instead of collecting Dinosaurs and other rare skeletons, Charles Mintz secretly signed away Walt Disney's animators when the Disney Bros. were making the [i]Oswald the Lucky Rabbit[/i] series.

Charles Mintz had married Margaret Winkler, a female American film prducer and distributor, and he promptly took control of her business. Winkler's company distributed the Disney Brothers silent, animated [i]Alice[/i] comedies. Mr. Mintz was unhappy with the cost of the series, and asked for a new character, and from that the [i]Oswald the Lucky Rabbit[/i] series was born. The new series proved unexpectedly popular and successful, and young Walt Disney went to New York in 1928 to meet with Mintz to negotiate a new contract.

When Walt Disney arrive, he was blindsided by Mintz, who informed Walt Disney that he had already signed Disney's animators to a new contract. Instead of a raise, Walt was told he was going to have to accept a pay cut. Walt rejected the offer and had to take the train home with no character, no contract, no distributor, and no staff. Of course, as the legend goes, out of this train ride home came Mickey Mouse. Walt was able to turn these lemons into lemonade largely because Walt's most talented animator, Ub Iwerks, remained loyal to him and didn't take the Mintz contract.

Was Mintz a real life "villain"? Probably not, just a businessman thinking he was paying too much for a series of cartoons. But in [i]UP[/i], the name "Charles Muntz" is surely no accident.

I am surprised by how little Up's story and the lesson we take away from it is discussed in these comments. Is it so obvious that it's not worth This is a wonderful story that shows us that the great adventure in life is in loving and human connection. The mundane things in life is what we cherish ... not travel, discovery, glory, riches, or fame.

Carl and Ellie are in love and share the dream of seeing Paradise Falls. Carl regrets that Ellie never realized her dream, but in the end, we see that she lived a rich, full, happy, adventurous life with Carl.

Ugh! That's all I can write for now. My toddler and infant need me right this second.

I am an older, single father, (49 years old), of a 4 year old daughter. The ONLY films I have seen in the past 4 years have been children's films, with her. I am not complaining mind fact, I'm looking forward to many, many more! And though some comments above have underlying criticism of pixar, personally, I have found several of their recent films to be wonderful and classic...particularly Wall-E and Up.

I'm very thankful for the exceptional story telling without the bathroom humor, the fantastic artistry, and we have also enjoyed the 3-d experience. The 3d keeps my daughter focused on the story that much more, and though Ebert and others like to grind away on this technology, the wonderment it brings children is the real point far as I'm concerned, (and I like it too!).

I'm not going to balance the scale with any negatives regarding these 2 films...they have simply been a joy to watch with my girl as opposed to some of the refuse that is out there...I hope pixar raises the bar across the industry.

I don't see the need of you commenting that the boy "looks Asian American to me." If he had been white, would you have commented that he "looks white to me"?

Ebert: White is the default choice. I found it interesting that he wasn't white. I guess you didn't.

I'm sure Charles Muntz's character owes at least something to another talented aviation pioneer - Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh's famous plane was named "Spirit of St. Louis", and Muntz's blimp - "Spirit of Adventure".

Roger, I also found it interesting that the boy wasn't white. I liked that he was Asian American without being stereotypically Asian American ... like Carl, who is not the stereotypical action hero.

Screw the 3D, the lack of female characters, the "unrealistic" plot with dogs flying planes (hello, it's a cartoon about a house that flies, of course it's unrealistic, who cares?), this movie is one of the most poignant and beautiful stories ever told. When Carl is finally able to let go of his past and move on to a new stage in his life with a little boy desperately in need of a father figure, when the "Stuff I'm Going To Do" section of the Adventure Book is filled with pictures of Ellie and Carl's life together and you realize that they both already had the adventure of their lifetimes together...oh, really made you see the beauty of life and appreciate the little things. I cried then laughed, then cried then laughed and then cried again and finally smiled all in that order. What a great film.

The key to movie making (at least to this movie consumer) would have to be the story. If the story is well-written, the movie has a better chance of grabbing my attention (and dollars).

The key to Pixar's success, clearly, is the story. Their art direction is wonderful; their movies have great special effects and interesting characters and voices. However, it's the story that makes every Pixar movie wonderful.

It's no surprise that John Lasseter is a fan of Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki's movies are beautifully animated, and written with a respect for the audience that few film makers match. Pixar has learned that lesson well.

Mr. Ebert - I agree with your point about Russell -- not only does the boy look Asian American, but the brief shot of his mother at his awards ceremony confirms part of that. As the adoptive parent of an Asian child, I find that choice more than interesting; I find it comforting.


How can you not know that the young boy was Native American? He makes several references to "sweat lodges" and his mother, at the end of the film, is obvioulsy Native American. Maybe living in Chicago for such a long time has sheltered you.

Rick Dawson
Nevada (less than a mile from the Paiute Reservation)

Ebert: This is interesting. The general opinion seems ti be that he was Asian-American. I'd like to get feedback from more readers. One earlier tonight said his mother looked Asian. When I made the statement in the original review, there was no disagreement.

Maggie, there is a difference between being "unrealistic" and having no internal logic. Most fantasies are incredibly unrealistic, but also logical. Snow White can only be woken up by her true love; Cinderella can only be found by her glass slippers. If Snow White woke up on her own, or Prince Charming found Cinderella in the telephone book, then the internal logic would be broken and the story's tension would be lost. A stories needs rules in order for there to be a plot. If dogs can fly airplanes, then presumably they are smart enough not to be distracted by squirrels. If even the flimsiest of garden hoses can keep Carl or Russell from falling, then why should I be afraid for them? If the laws of physics don't apply, then they might as well be on the ground. Certainly a house being lifted by balloons is "unrealistic," but it is by all means logical. We would expect the house to be carried up, and not down.

Reply to: Ebert: This is interesting. The general opinion seems ti be that he was Asian-American. I'd like to get feedback from more readers. One earlier tonight said his mother looked Asian. When I made the statement in the original review, there was no disagreement.

Originally, I thought the character was based on the voice actor, but apparently not.

Here's an interview that clears up the origin of Russell. when you look at a photo of Peter Sohn, there's not much doubt...

INTERVIEW: 20 questions with ‘Up’ director Pete Docter

10) ...Russell is an Asian-American. I know the character was based on Pixar’s Peter Sohn...

DOCTER: Pete Sohn is such an entertaining character that we thought, let’s just try to grab him and figure out what he was like as a kid,

Peter Sohn: my mother... grew up in Korea watching old American movies, and when I grew up she showed me all those movies. But what’s funny is that when we used to go theatre she wouldn’t understand the English and so I would be there translating a lot of the movies for her.

I'm with Roger about 3D, if only most of the movies that would be made with the process would scarcely be worth watching at all in the first place.

And as far as Pixar goes, if "Cars" is the worst thing they've ever done, that only proves their garbage is better than most people's diamonds. I'd watch a bad Kurosawa movie over a good Uwe Böll movie any day.

I was looking forward to 'UP' since the first trailers came out last year! The concept was hilarious and the pairing of a cranky, old square with a rotund kid had a lot of potential. I thought that the dogs, the voice-boxes, etc distracted from the potential to develop the other characters further. I was still looking forward to a visually rich experience and saw the movie in 3D. What a disappointment it was!! I felt that I was straining to look through a window onto a small, moving image! Why was the movie image smaller than a typical 2D image? Is this due to the 3D technology? I also saw trailers for Toy Story, Ice Age and a few others in 3D and was irritated and annoyed at the end of the show. You could add head- and eye-aches to the list!! It would have been a better visual experience in 2D! I doubt if I will view any other summer movie in 3D. Despite this, I am still looking forward to Avatar in 3D, if anyone can use this technology better it is James Cameron!! I also hope that they make better use of the technology for Toy Story 3 if they still push forward with this..

Because "Up" was full of elation, I wanted to start a discussion about The All-Time Great Movies and how to get a new film on the list. why? Because it seems strange that "The Godfather" and "Citizen Kane" and "Casablanca" are still at the top of the list. If we watch them, and study them in screenwriting class for thirty years, why can't screenwriters do better?

Reply to: The Quiet Man was on last night. Sean and Mary Kate are caught in the storm, under the ruined archway, near dusk on their first day of courting, leaps out of the movie quite suddenly, wordless, electric, with Wayne's and O'Hara's expressions and postures in the lightning flashes and the cracks of thunder showing us why men and women come together. Genius filmmaking.

If you've seen a piece of genius filmaking, can you borrow it? Use it? Improve on it?

My problem with a lot of movies is, "What is the target audience?" I see a lot of movies that are obviously aimed at some group that I've decided not to join. ie, drug dealers and prostitutes in Third World countries. Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale in "Brokedown Palace." Midnight Express. any movie set in a prison. The Shawshank Redemption.

I think the F-22 has as much star potential as Eddie Murphy, and Pixar missed the boat by making "Cars" instead of "Jets." If a movie is aimed at me, at some point, the hero climbs into the cockpit of a jet MORE advanced than the ones the Air Force is actually flying, and it's as believable as Jack telling Rose to open her eyes and hold out her arms. It's not a half-scale model that came in under budget.

James Cameron got one thing right with "Titanic." The most important decision facing teenage girls, the one they have to pretty much make on their own, is when and whether to get naked with a boy for the first time. It's like Cameron asked 100 high school students "what's the biggest problem facing you today?" and made a movie based on their essays. That was "American Graffiti" too, in the days when the United States had a draft. Teenagers on their last night before going into the Army to serve in Vietnam.

I think that's what teenage boys want to see. Certainly "AG" surprised a lot of people. Teenagers wonder, "How would I do as a soldier? If I was sent into a country where there's a shooting war going on?" That's also the success of "Transformers." And "The Dark Knight." Bruce Wayne created Batman because the police weren't getting the job done. He walked into a shooting war on the streets of Chicago, and the audience thinks, "Yeah, that's how I would do it."

I think it's strange (again) that we know exactly what buttons to push, to bring teenagers into the theaters, and no one's using them. Teenagers know they don't have all the answers. Teenagers want to see movies that answer their questions. The idea of "faces revealed by flashes of lightning" in "The Quiet Man" was kind of vague, and the way Cameron did it was a lot more helpful to teenagers looking for answers.

If "Up" was aimed at a target audience the same age as Russell (as many Pixar movies are) then yes, it works. But a whole lot of people sit there and think, "This is someone else's movie." the way you join the All-Time Great List is, Every person in the audience thinks, "This is MY movie. Everything in this movie is aimed directly at MY needs." When Captain Von Trapp tells Maria that he's fallen in love with her (Sound of Music) , that's how the audience feels. So it's possible.

There are probably some essential requirements to getting on the All-Time Great List that I haven't thought of yet.

Dear Mr. Ebert,

My opinions hit the mark with yours most of the time, which is why I like reading your article, but this time around I'm afraid that we're out of sync-- not of the film, which I think is possibly one of Pixar's best crafted pictures, and certainly their most touching-- but with the aspect of the 3D, which I've yet to see the film in yet.

3D is a medium, just as color or black and white, "flat" or 'scope, stereophonic or monophonic, sound or silent. It is how it is utilized that makes it memorable, for better or for worse. I believe that 3D [u]is[/u] an art form that needs to be cultivated more carefully. Likewise, I feel that all of these mediums should be used more frequently. Black and white has just as much validity as color, if not moreso.

I submit: HOUSE OF WAX be remembered today if it weren't for the 3D and stereophonic sound that it was originally released with? WAX benefits emotionally from the 3D-- when Charles Bronson pops out of the corner of the screen, you're shocked by it. Not so much flat.

(PS. To those reading up on RealD's hype, NONE of the 1950s features were shown red/blue anaglyphic in their day. Polaroid presentations date back to the 1930s.)

Great films are great films, and it's true the play is the thing, but why is it that 3D is the bastard child of technique when it is a valid addition to the craft of film making? There are many films in which we criticize the story or acting, but praise the cinematography and visuals that have been applied. Likewise, some of the 1950s films are just middling-to-boring flat, but come "alive" in 3D. If you don't see those films in 3D, you haven't seen them at all, in my opinion.

Unfortunately, in the last 30-40 years (the most memorable to most readers here), there [u]have[/u] been a slew of bad 3D movies that don't exactly give the process a good reputation. I can't deny for every KISS ME KATE, there's a FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN, or for every I, THE JURY (the original version, a film I wish you would review) there's a JAWS 3-D. These late '70s and early '80s films are an embarrassment to the process because they're lousy films that have lousy stereoscopy because the filmmakers didn't take the time to learn what they were doing. Eye-strain has nothing to do with the glasses or projection anymore-- don't blame the theaters, blame the filmmakers, who don't understand simple concepts like point of conversion and parallax.

The market is now uneven for the obvious reasons-- some films are shot beautifully (such as the recent CORALINE, of which I had mixed opinions about the film itself), while others will rip your eyes apart from each other (the short-lived FLY ME TO THE MOON). Everything else seems to have been falling in-between.

Furthermore, stereoscopy from one person to another is not the same, of course. Some of us have larger noggins than others, and some of us have eyes closer or further together than others. Most of this is accounted for in shooting. Some people, on the other hand, have a stereoscopic deficiency and actually don't "compute" stereo. Often I find that it is these people who don't feel the process adds anything to product because they literally can't see it.

New Hollywood should take a cue from Old Hollywood and learn the principles of stereoscopy before jumping into these productions, but in all likelihood, they won't. There is your problem, plain and simple.

Best wishes,
J. Theakston


touching poignant

they NAILED kirk douglas with muntz.

also, when carl left russell in the house to go back to the zeppelin. ,did anyone else think of the end of gran torino when clint locked the kid in the basement?

/how the hell didn't clint get a acting nom?

Is it just me or did this film have a Herzoggian Fitzcarraldo feel to it? Albeit a wonderful homage.
I find Ebert's Reviews almost as inspiring as the films themselves.

See "UP' first in 2-D and then in 3-D and make up your own minD

I'm a 48-yr old father of three young boys. We see virtually all the kid movies that come out. The Incredibles is my favorite movie.

I have to say that even though I've seen them all pretty much, Up was the most imaginative and touching one of seen. It really touched my heart, particularly the beginning scenes with Carl and Ellie. The idea of living life before it's too late, only to have the old man go for it was really uplifting. Not that it ever got melodramatic,what was really great was the whole idea of floating away! The movie seemed so real and yet I was thinking "Who in the world came up with the story line?"

My sons loved it and even my wife, who generally won't even go to kid movies, loved it.

I saw it in 2D. (Just watched a wretched kid movie, Coraline, in 3D weeks back--not again). I'm glad I did.

Last thing, I'm African American and didn't even notice Russell's ethnicity. Don't really see why it's all that relevant other than to say I couldn't see that film working the same with a black child.

(Watch Pixar work that into their next film.)

I thought this movie was a work of art. I still think of the "Toy Story" films as some of the greatest movies of this generation, in any genre.

I saw "Up" in 3D, and I agree with several that it may detract slightly from the overall the very least, the glasses dim the beautiful colors that function almost like characters in the film.

Some of the touches, which I'm sure others might shrug off as maudlin cliches, are just wonderful. The way the house floating by influences everyone on the ground...not children jumping up and down and pointing, trying to get their parents' attention, like most cartoons would show...but a little girl seeing the way the balloons passing by her window ripples the sunshine in her room and breaks her silent reveries...just nice work.

There is blogging all over again about critic Armond White and his contrarian view on most popular films. This week he has panned "Up" as sickeningly cute and original and given thumbs up to "Land of the Lost" as a glib, fun experience...comments?


As usual, I signed onto the Internet with the best of intentions, to read a few pages of David Howard book "How to Build A Great Screenplay" for inspiration, and then get working on a script. And then, I read this:

Ebert: For awhile I came into O'Rourke's and drank Cokes, but a bar is for drinking. My outside life expanded to such a degree that I asked myself how in the hell I'd been able to hang out in O'Rourke's every night and still get anything done.

Life is short, and often wisdom comes too late.

And the topic is... All-Time Great Movies. My first question is, what do you want to see in a movie? Do you want to see a gruesome murder solved? Not really. I've seen a few. In fact, I've seen enough. I can buy some DVDs of recent television shows if I need to see another murder solved.

"UP" started with a great visual. The rain forest of Venezuela. The world's highest waterfall, Angel Falls.

that's the kind of image that belongs on an IMAX screen, not an animated movie.

Maybe a great movie is about finding a great character. Of course, screenwriting uses the term differently. A character is defined by his wants, needs and desires, and the only important action in a movie is how he tries to obtain them. Lester in "American Beauty," for example, buys a Firebird Trans Am, because he never had one as a teenager.

Ebert: Bruce Elliott, of the Ale House, is a true character: Brilliant, incurably sardonic, a gossip, sarcastic, boasting of never having done a day's work before the age of 60. Like many full-time originals, he has a wonderful wife (Tobin). They gave their daughter Grace the middle name of "Littlefeather" because Bruce thought that would help her with college admissions.

Sounds like a good place to start. Especially the "college admissions" part.

Ebert: Bruce painted a Sarah Palin nude,… Sometimes I think that all by myself I could write the Reader's Digest feature, "The Most Unforgettable Character I've Ever Met." I suspect that if you could gather McHugh, Elliott and myself together and ask for a vote, our consensus would be Jay Robert Nash. Now there is a living legend.

As usual, I come here with a few thoughts, but find much more interesting ones.

But the topic is... tension in the opening scenes.

One attribute of All-Time Great Movies is tension.

When the movie starts, the hero is under some kind of threat. He's in danger. (Leia's' ship is being pursued by a Star Destroyer.)

The hero's life is out of balance. When he makes an effort to correct this, he might fail, but the audience bonds with his effort. Because he's trying. And because everything he does seems to make things worse.

In the opening of "Raiders," Indy faces cannibals, a giant ball, poison darts, booby traps, a human threat from Satipo (an early Alfred Molina) and Belloq, a snake on the floor of his ride home....

When you think about the opening of classic movies, there are usually numerous threats, from different "directions." In "Casablanca," there are pickpockets who will steal your wallets. Nazis who can have you arrested, and a beautiful woman at the bar who is drunk and crying because Rick doesn't care about her.

The art of writing a great screenplay is to create an opening sequence that has four, maybe five or six, problems that create "tension" for the main characters. In "American Beauty," Lester is bored by his job and his life. Then he learns he's about to be fired. He negotiates a severence package of a year's salary. His wife complains that they haven't had sex in months, and then he meets a cheerleader who is a friend of his daughter's, and his old life (in the form of lust) causes more tension. Should he go after her? should he risk losing his daughter's respect?

It's great to start with a character who is Brilliant, incurably sardonic, and sarcastic... but what do we really want to see in a movie? A love story?

The short answer is, most people want to see their "beliefs" confirmed. "The Passion of the Christ" and "Jurassic Park" form two ends of a spectrum. Both enormously successful. For weeks, people talked about going to see movies again.

Micheal Crichton used a cheat. He found the most intense part of the story, where a person was in great danger, and started there. Even though it wasn't connected to the rest of the story. "Jaws" started with a woman swimmer being tossed around by something unseen beneath the ocean.

So, two rules. The opening scene has to raise a question that is answered by the climax. (ie, the hero kills the unseen menace that attacked in the opening scene.)

and, two, the first twenty pages contain a serious of threats, dangers, challenges, risky desires, impossible quests... that create a bond between the audience and this viewpoint character who has at least three, and possibly four or five, dimensions. The great adventurer Indiana Jones has a secret identity as a college professor who wears a geeky bowtie. Who knew?

When there's tension, the audience feels connected. We become participants in the story. We felt like we were part of Rick Blaine's struggle. We've shared his experience with Ilsa in Paris. We've been made his ally.

If we can't anticipate... if we don't KNOW the shark is out there... then we won't feel tension.

When Lester talks to the cheerleader, we know it's going to lead to trouble in his marriage and in his relationship with his daughter. It's the anticipation that drags us in. It's knowing what could happen, and then seeing something even worse.

that's why christopher Plummer's character should have been dead, stuffed, and brought back as a zombie. Because we want the revelation to be worse than we imagined it could be.

Wow, this thread is absolutely massive. A few things -

1. Muntz isn't exactly a spoiler. He's in the trailer, and the connection is obvious from the minute he leaves in his massive blimp.

2. I think one of Pixar's upcoming movies has a female main character. It's even directed by a woman. There have, however, been complaints that the female protagonist is a princess.

3. Russell looked Asian-American to me.

4. You had a film festival at sea? How did that work? Can you do it again?

5. Hopefully I'll see this in 3D, though I'm somewhat opposed to the format. I didn't have a good time at Beowulf, which, if I'm not mistaken, is the benchmark for this sort of thing? I felt that it had too many cheap tricks, and when they did the shot going towards the mountains, the tree branches flew at you, which gave the movie a strange effect - seemed like it was playing backwards. I've been meaning to revisit it in 2D.

6. The trailers before Up showed a GLUT of 3D movies coming out. There doesn't appear to be a single animated movie coming out, even the Toy Story double feature, that is in some sort of 3D format. That leads me to believe that it isn't a simple matter of artistic vision - it simply makes sense on the business side of things.

I think that's all I've got right now.

I was hoping to turn this into a perpetual discussion thread about movies, in the way that "Ben Stein" presented a forum for Evolution advocates.

(SPOILERS for upcoming Pixar movies.)

Topic: men vs. women. Studios talk about "four-quadrant movies," that appeal to both men and women, young and old.

"Titanic" showed us the wisdom of the opposite approach. Define your target group. ie, young women. Write your story, and take out everything that doesn't appeal to your target group. So, you get a androgenous lust object like Leonardo DiCaprio (No, I don't understand it either.) which pretty much kills any possibility of adult men enjoying the movie.

And it earns $ 1.7 billion worldwide. Not twice as much as "The Dark Knight," but counting inflation, close.

So a very smart move for a studio could be spending $200 million for a one-quadrant movie. IF every young woman in that demographic will see it multiple times.

"The Hangover" is an interesting attempt at a one-quadrant movie. The problem is the subject. Given a choice between going to Vegas for a weekend, and watching a movie about it, what do you choose? "Toy Story 3" should be a better experience than looking at a box of toys.

NEWS: Kevin Smith’s R-Rated buddy cop comedy "A Couple of Dicks" features Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis... After the first day of shooting, Smith tweeted “Bruce & Tracy are so good together, you’d think this was the sequel.”

I can understand why Kevin Smith would make this movie. His speciality is male bonding (and jokes about drug use) and he's landed two actors at the top of their game. But... why would anyone in the audience want to see it?

Last night, "Inherit the Wind" with Kirk Douglas and Jason Robards was on a cable channel. Another one of those movies I don't care enough about to watch. We've talked enough about the human genome, and how it supports evolutionary theory, that it was painful to watch two famous lawyers who, literally, didn't know what they were talking about.

When you're a boy growing up, you always want to do stuff. And your parents never let you do stuff. So, you get enthusiastic about movies where the young hero is allowed to do really cool stuff. Fighting robots. Harry Potter getting on a magic train to a private school in Scotland called "Hogwarts."

To me, there's a mismatch between "rainforests of Venezuela" and "enormous airship" and "animated movie." Why would you want to see drawings of all this great stuff?

Reply to: one of Pixar's upcoming movies has a female main character... complaints that the female protagonist is a princess.

Pixar has announced “The Bear and the Bow,” a holiday 2011 fantasy about an impetuous Scottish princess; Newt, and “King of the Elves,” with elves and trolls living in modern-day Mississippi.

The Bear and the Bow.

Writer and director Brenda Chapman (Cars, Prince of Egypt) is ‘behind the lens’ of Pixar’s first fairy tale, which stars Reese Witherspoon as the voice of a Scottish princess Merida, who would rather be known as a great (and brave) archer. The Royal Family includes King Fergus, Queen Elinor, Princess Merida and the royal triplets (three little brothers)... Merida struggles with the unpredictable forces of nature, magic and a dark, ancient curse to set things right.

so, did Pixar just make a xerox of the script from "Mulan" and write in "King speaks with Sean Connery's Scottish brogue" on page 3? If Witherspoon was born in Louisiana, lived in Germany and went to high school in Nashville, why is she suddenly a Scottish princess?

Chapman calls ita fairy tale in the tradition of Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm, set in Scotland. She took her love of those two things and combined them with her love of her young daughter and came up with this story... As the witch (or “wise-woman”) is Julie Walters (HARRY POTTER), King Fergus will be played by Billy Connelly, Queen Elinor will be played by Emma Thompson


Premise: The last two blue footed newts on this earth, a male and a female, are thrown together by science and can’t stand each other. Newt has been in captivity at a community college since he was a tadpole. He’s lonely. His only friend is a lifeless sock puppet. Brook is the last female BFN. She eludes "those crazy biologists" and Rydstrom describes her evasive talents as an “amphibious Errol Flynn.”

Obviously, Pixar doesn't represent the movie industry as a whole. They're a small boutique shop.

There's a huge difference between a studio exec choosing 25 movies to make over the next three years, and a writer working on a single script. The common factor should be... to make the movie that a substantial group in the audience wants to see. ie, the fight between Batman and The Joker in modern Chicago.

TheFilmist said:
"Personally, as far as [i]Happy Feet 2[/i] goes, I'd like to hear Roger's thoughts about the first film, given how much he's enjoyed Miller's previous films."

This caught my eye, scrolling down the page. And, I can't say I disagree. Even after reading about some of the stuff that they left out of the first film - there was an entire plot point cut out just near the end of production featuring honest-to-bob aliens, among other things - I still think it holds together concisely in spite of that; and, if they do manage to put any of these concepts forward for the sequel, it's going to be a hell of a film. In 3d, unfortunately, but - well.

On a somewhat more related note - a [i]Toy Story 3[/i] teaser! How exciting.

Let's start with a hypothetical. Think of this as a test question, a type you might see on a college admissions test. There's a list with a missing item. The goal is to identify the missing word or object. For example

What is the next number in this series?

13, 57, 911, 1315, 1719, __________

And the answer is, 2123.

Odd numbers, in pairs, in ascending order.

Here's a more difficult list:

(1) _________________________, 160
(2) Gone With The Wind, 145
(3) Star Wars, 128
(4) The Sound of Music, 102
(5) E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial 101
(6) The Ten Commandments 94
(7) Titanic 92
(8) Jaws 91
(9) Doctor Zhivago 89
(10) The Exorcist 79
(11) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 78

The ordered relationship is, a movie and it's domestic gross, adjusted for inflation.

What movie would belong at the top of this list?

"Gone With The Wind" was an event movie, the most expensive ever made to date. The epic love story of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara. Against the horrors of the Civil War, Scarlett marries Rhett, moves to Atlanta, and tries to create his ideal life. At the end, she returns to Tara, her childhood home, and vows never to be hungry again.

"The Sound of Music" was a Broadway musical first, the true story of a nun who was assigned to take care of children whose mother had died. She falls in love with the father, and leads them all to safety across the mountains.

I think "E.T." is the most interesting one, because it was small and it came out of nowhere. Steven Spielberg had a huge success with "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," and Columbia wanted him to make a sequel. He developed a script called "Dark Skies," about dim-witted aliens who land on a farm and try to make First contact with cows. He gave up on the script, except for a subplot at the end where one of the aliens has a telepathic link with an autistic boy and stays behind when the ship leaves.

The biggest challenge in "talkng about movies" is to figure out what is missing from the #1 spot.

Let me get your opinion on this one: One morning, we learn that everyone on the island of Cuba is dead. Turns out that an alien ship has landed, erected a force field, and has replaced the air with a different mixture from its' home planet. The aliens intend to create a replica of their home planet, using the island of Cuba... and then, expand until it covers our entire planet. The heroes, a young married couple who happen to be Christian missionaries on vacation, convince the aliens to scale down their plans and only occupy Cuba.

I'm not saying this is the right answer. It probably isn't. It's just an example. The challenge is to visualize why those movies on the list had such enormous box office, and create a new concept that would reach the hearts and wallets of even more people.

Is the common element a relationship that explores what love means, in an original way? Rhett fell in love with Scarlett, but when their child died, he had to get out?

Elliott met an alien, tried to save him, and then cried when the alien had to leave with his parents?

"The Exorcist" offers a new twist. The hero voluntarily gives up his life, to save an innocent child.

It would be nice to create a new #1 that doesn't cost $250 million to make, but maybe that's the only way to beat "Gone With The Wind." Traditional American values, the meaning of life and sacrifice to save others, intense emotions, a certain amout of spectacle, and of course, the unexpected twists and turns in the pursuit of True Love.

If you come up with an idea that would cost over $200 million to make, and isn't based on an existing movie or franchise, this could be the only way you'll ever see it on a screen. By imagining it.

What a pleasant suprise! I had read Rogers review, but my natural trepidition towards film this year kept me away from the nearby cineplex. Indeed, the coming attractions, which were predominantly in the same cartoon vein as "Up", were loud and distracting. The pre show cartoon was nice, but I didn't lower my guard until I saw the montage of Carl and Ellies life. It was sweet, and wonderful, and reminded me a lot of my own grandparents who both were the typical high rolling adventuring oldsters(No offense intended). I agree with everything in the shorter review, and I appreciate that Ed Asners character wasn't a curmedgeon caricature, but had depth and personality and was non sentimental(Well, non sappy anyways).

I'm from Venezuela and I saw the movie last sunday. It was AMAZING to see a place that is in my country inside an amazing and beautiful story about the life and love of this man. I think Pixar is beyond any animation factory in America. If you think of any blockbuster Dreamworks movie or something like that, well, you're wrong.

Pixar takes emotion to a new level. I don't need to see a real person to feel the sensations that UP shows me in those beautiful first minutes in the movie.

From a venezuelan who has already visited those amazing places (the waterfalls, the tepuis and all this lost world) I'm very proud and happy that all of you like what this movie created.

I was impressed with Up in 3D, and while distracting for the first couple of minutes, I quickly got used to it and though it made the film very exciting. I think it only worked because the animation was already very three-dimensional. Otherwise, it doesn't necessarily do much for a film (i.e. Journey to the Center of the Earth).

Last week, I read that "Up" would be the first film to repeat as #1, Studio Estimates

UP $ 44.2 nil, down 35%
Friday $ 13.5

The Hangover $ 43.2
Friday $ 16.5

Clearly, it's still a contest between families who want to see a Pixar movie on Sunday afternoon, and young males who don't have anything better to do on a Sunday afternoon. The two movies have different audiences. And yet... curiously, much the same attitude toward women. A groom goes to Vegas with three buddies on the night before his wedding, and Carl goes to South America to fulfill his wife's dream of adventure.

If you compare this to the All-Time Box Office champs, you see something interesting. The BOC have given us some of the most memorable FEMALE characters in movie history.

Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone With The Wind"
Princess Leia Organa in "Star Wars"
Maria (Julie Andrews) in "The Sound of Music"
Rose DeWitt Bukater Dawson (Kate Winslet) in "Titanic"
Snow White in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (the only one where a female character got in the TITLE, albeit with seven male co-stars)

Many of the screenwriting books say "Find a story you're enthusiastic about." Which seems like a very weak test. Instead, find a modern myth that presents a powerful and compelling female lead character, who goes through a series of enormous challenges and comes out a different person at the end.

In "Gone With The Wind," Scarlett started as the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, who flirted at parties and had never worked in the fields. Before the movie ended, she not only spent a season picking cotton, she also had to deal with former slaves who tried to attack her. (Trivia: the Ku Klux Klan was written out of the screenplay as the organization to which Frank Kennedy turns after Scarlett is attacked in Shantytown. All four principal characters appear together in the same scene only once, after the raid on Shantytown, when Rhett tells the anxious group of the fate of Scarlett's second husband, Frank Kennedy)

"The Exorcist" had a more traditional view of women. Two men have to rescue an innocent teenager.

ET, again, is the most interesting movie re: story. Yes, America was primed for a sequel to "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." They had "alien fever.' But the relationship between Elliott (a boy) and ET (a vegetable) was something that parents everywhere could embrace. That's why UP attracts families. The moral is a father (Carl) who finally takes responsibility for raising a son.

One trick to huge box office success is to tell a story that parents want to take their children to see. A lesson in growing up disguised as a Great Adventure. You could argue that Sheriff Brody (Roy Scheider) started as a boy, and he had to grow up by catching a fish.

GWTW was made in 1939. It doesn't show a woman doctor. (Rose's Mother in Titanic: The purpose of university is to find a suitable husband. Rose has already done that.)

imdb: American classic in which a manipulative woman and a roguish man carry on a turbulent love affair. Vivien Leigh is so powerful, passionate, magnificent and beautiful that you could watch it 1000 times on that ground alone. She brings something so convincing and human to the role of the selfish, spoilt Scarlett; the character is larger than life

Scarlett: Fiddle-dee-dee. War, war, war; this war talk's spoiling all the fun at every party this spring. I get so bored I could scream. Besides... there isn't going to be any war.

Brent Tarleton: Not going to be any war?
Stuart Tarleton: Why, honey, of course there's gonna be a war.

Scarlett: If either of you boys says "war" just once again, I'll go in the house and slam the door.

(1) The estimated production costs were $3.9 million. At the time, only Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925) and Hell's Angels (1930) had cost more. There are more than 50 speaking roles and 2,400 extras in the film.

(2) Casting trivia: Clark Gable didn't believe that he could live up to the public's anticipation of Rhett Butler. Eventually, he was persuaded by a $50,000 bonus which would enable him to divorce his second wife Maria ("Ria") and marry Carole Lombard. Leslie Howard privately felt that he was much too old to play Ashley Wilkes (the character was supposed to be about 21 at the start of the film).

(One theory) holds that David O. Selznick had already secretly signed Leigh for the role as early as February 1938, and that the nationwide "Search For Scarlett O'Hara", during which thousands of dollars were spent "testing" aspiring actresses for the part, was actually a well orchestrated publicity stunt.

A well-orchestrated... publicity stunt? Did that have anything to do with the box office?

Lookiing back at the list again, there are two things that strike me. (1) These are stories about people who go through some experience that changes them completely as human beings. (2) GWTW had two female characters, Scarlett and Miss Melanie, and by the end, Scarlett had learned a lot from her.

Rose: It was the ship of dreams to everyone else. To me it was a slave ship, taking me back to America in chains. Outwardly, I was everything a well brought up girl should be. Inside, I was screaming. I saw my whole life as if I had already lived it. An endless parade of parties and cotillions, yachts and polo matches.

Jack: What I was thinking was, what could've happened to this girl to make her feel she had no way out?

A lot of screen time devoted to the Internal Struggle of a Heroine... who is transformed by the events that occur during the movie. such as Scarlett having to assist a doctor amputating limbs of Confederate soldiers, many of them neighbors.

"UP" is a good story. It's not enough of an American myth... the one story that you absolutely have to see if you want to be cool.... because it doesnt offer "enough" of a viewpoint character for the women in the audience to bond with and go through a life-changing experience.

"Up" may be my favorite animated film of all-time. I have seen it twice this weekend, once in 2-D and once in 3-D and enjoyed both viewings immensely. Seeing the film in 3-D did not dimminish the emotional power of the film, but tend to agree that the 3-D is rather unnecessary with this film. "Up" is that rare film that kids seemed to love and enjoy, while adults are entertained and moved. The opening sequence that tells the love story of Ellie and Carl is one of the most poignant sequences ever filmed, the middle if fun and and exciting, and the ending delivers an emotional "POW" that had me leaving the theater with tears in my eyes and wonderfully UP-lifted at the same time. Thanks to Pixar for this all-time classic.

So much technical missinformation and journalistic errors, makes the 3D topic incredibly hard to talk about.

For once, XpanD active glasses are not around $25, but more like $80 (Dolby's are $28 at the moment, RealD's 0.45cents).

Also, there ARE temporal disparities in all single projector 3D systems (RealD, Dolby, XpanD), except on Sony's. Dual projection systems, like Imax (or others generics) do not have this problem as well.

This problem occurs when one eye is seeing a frame from a point on time while the other eye "remembers" (through persistence of vision) the frame from a previous time in the past. It's like seeing the present with one eye and the past with the other, as objects have moved through space and are no longer in the same position as the previous frame. Although this happens about 72 times per eye (less in systems like XpanD), the eye/brain visual system is able to discern upwards to 200hz of motion, thus, it IS a problem with this "new" type of 3D for a lot of people, who get additional headaches and "weird" feelings from seeing one thing with one eye and another thing (i.e. a new scene cut) with the other, even if for a brief period of time (in-between-frame changes, as each frame is repeated 2 or 3 times).

And indeed, polarizing filters alter the colors just like most-any filter will. Check out the color curve responses of available polarizing filters and you'll see that is not a straight line across the spectrum. At all.

Add this to the illumination uniformity (due to the high gain) and color spectrum of silver screens.

On Dolby's system, which doesn't use polarizing filters but fequency bandpass ones, color spectrum is a) reduced from DCI standard, b) DIFFERENT FOR EACH EYE, c) On-the-fly color corrected by the DCinema player (server) to try to compensate for this.

Additionally, RealD projections are "ghostbusted" which is a fancy way of saying that the contrast has been killed in parts of the image in a (lame) attempt to reduce the ghosting double images, due to RealD's poor crosstalk performance.

Also, when films are projected in 3D, due to limitations of the dual HD-SDI link between Dcinema players (servers) and projectors, images are usually (with the exception of Dolby and some dual-projection, like Imax) halved in resolution (subsampled 4:2:2) and the color space reduced to 1/4 (10 bits, instead of 12 bits).

In projectors older than about 7 months, ALL the image, and not only the color, is even further reduced in resolution (about 10%) due to limitations on the projectors imaging boards to deal with the 48fps 3D stream.

And, of course, 3D films are FAR less bright than 2D films for the time being. Due to how much light the suck, DCI has allowed 3D films to be timed for exhibition light levels of between 3.5 and 5.5 footlamberts, while 2D films are never allowed below 14fl. And that is in spite of the usage of high gain screens, which only allow for such brightness to show in the dead-center of the screen, while quickly falling off as you sit to the sides and the front of the theater. If you sit in a front corner in a 3D showing, you'll be seeing an image that is about 6 times darker than your average 2D movie.

The myth that in the past 3D films used widely red-and-blue anaglyphic glasses continues. Most-all projections of 3D films in the past 60 years have always been polarized, using either two 35mm projectors in the 50's or a single one (like it's beeing done now mostly) in the 80's. Sony's 4K system does 3D in exactly the same way as it was doen in the 80's: the frame is split into two (2K) images and projected through an equivalent of two-lenses onto the same screen.

The short answer is: yes, 3D sucks compared to 2D. And for more reasons that one, two, three or four. Exactly the same problems that plagued 3D systems in the past continue and even some new ones have been added. Not all 3D systems are the same, but they all have problems. Some, like realD, have a LOT of problems: low light (3.5 to 5.5 fl), illumination uniformity due to silver screen (half the light at 45º viewing angle), color shift due to polarizers/screen, ghosting (and selective contrast reduction artifacts in an attempt to hide it), halved color resolution (4:2:2 subsampling), 1/4 color space (10 bits), 3D "flicker" (out-of-phase temporal disparity), even more reduced spatial resolution in slightly older (non-triple flash) projectors, and all this besides the 3D "unavoidable" decoupling of accomodation-convergence, bad rendering of scale (often things look smaller), often fixed convergence relationships (looks weird if you are not looking at the main point of interest in the scene), etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.

Dolby has the added advantage of very little/none ghosting (and doesn't need to destroy the film through "ghostbusting") but it's also the (potentially, if not compensated by a much higher wattage lamp) less bright of all. Plus it's the one that plays most with the colors, as it depends on them instead of on the polarization of light to perform the image selection.

Sony's system (marketed by RealD, but completely different) and Imax (dual projection) has few drawbacks (better ghosting than RealD, no temporal disparity, full resolution and color depth) but adds other drawbacks (slight geometrical keystoning disparities due to the dual-lenses, potential for illumination assymetries from the two different lamps in Imax and the illumination cone being splitted in Sony's).

Etc, etc, etc.

Those that think that 3D is wonderfull and w/o drawbacks, well, simply haven't done the research or believe the hype and miss-information given by others.

3D is not for everyone and it's not for all movies. Sure it can be fun for a while and cool for a couple of horror films and the like. It can be OK if done subtly and some films benefit from it a lot (i.e. Coraline and some animation, where the sense of "miniature dolls" is embedded in the film itself).

But I don't foresee a lot of Oscar winners in 3D.

Avatar will be a cool experiment thing made the best of the best of the best (at a tremendous cost) that 3D could be.

Still, I'm sure those watching Avatar in 2D are going to have just about as good as an experience as to 80% of those watching it in 3D. One piece of advice: if you are watching Avatar in 3D, try to find the largest screen possible and favor Sony and Imax 3D installations. If you must go to a RealD, sit in the dead-center of the theater. If you must go to a Dolby, pray the theatre's owner spent the money in the brightest projector/lamp money can buy. But if you like it, watch it once more time in 2D to see what you were missing in the the 3D version ...

In this case - and hopefully in future cases, though I doubt it - I found the 3D actually added to the experience. Rather than using it for cheap sight-gags and pop-outs, Pixar just added a level of depth to their canvas that turned beautiful animation breathtaking. When the balloons first burst out of the house, for example, I briefly took off my glasses to appreciate the color palette in full...then immediately put them back on to watch the amazing interplay of color, shape and depth on the screen. This is not 'Disneyland' 3D. This is a sincere attempt to turn the 3D effect into an artistic complement to animation. And I believe it succeeded.

I'm currently unemployed and out of film school, so I have a lot of time on my hands for really long posts. Please be patient with my wordiness.

While you can certainly draw 2D animation on a computer now, which is how much of it is done for TV, computer "generated" animation is already in 3D within the software. From there, you simply have to choose the focal length, distance between the eyes intended, and the angle the two viewpoints intersect at -- dynamically like a virtual stereocinematographer -- for render and "print out". The common method is to use an average eye distance for 45-50mm, more for longer, and less for wider virtual lenses. Like in real life, you can adjust virtual f-stop to put the space in narrow field of focus or deep focus.

That said, I think film stereoscopics currently has its limitations. Chief amongst them are the glasses, which I don't see ever changing. Optically, there's nothing wrong. Dolby 3D at my local cinema only had some effects of horizontal arcs on the projected images, which were subtle on some scenes and not noticeable the rest of the time. That's a slight digital projector misadjustment. The glasses themselves were not too dark and the film had excellent contrast (color's included in that) and brightness. An adult who wears glasses should use contacts, because they do become uncomfortable on top of your frames. Children, however, have very low tolerances to keeping anything on their heads except those with the most restraint, maturity, and (for lack of a better term) emotional intelligence. This marshmellow test my nephews didn't pass.

As an adult who saw Up in stereoscopic with an acceptable projector set-up and was still wearing my own glasses underneith in spite of discomfort towards the end, the experience was mezmerizing. I am not new to stereo, as I was the first person to adapt the eMagin head mounted display system to both consumer, semi-pro, and professional-grade flight simulators. It's been sort of hobby, passion... hell, let's call it what it is: an unpaid obsession. I've assisted flight schools with purchasing choices & installation and advised on projects using this technology for unmanned aerial vehicals. Basically glorified RC aircraft with cameras. There is a lesson to be learned in all my experiences with flight simulation and the rest...

Frames per second. No one would run a professional or military-grade flight simulator in stereoscopic at 24 frames per second for a full two hours with any user. The temporal resolution is totally insufficient for your eyes to properly track information along the horizon. And that's with a relatively narrow OLED field of view. A large theater screen is even more of a problem. Even 2D gamers would NEVER play a first person shooter at 24fps. I hate first person shooters and most video games in general, but those dorks are the masses and the masses are right about that fact. If even people who don't know what it is know they don't like it, it's probably bad.

In 2D film, 24fps is a big enough problem as it is. It made Transformers much of the time look like tin foil balls being thrown about in a stutter or blur, depending on the normal-speed shot. There's only so much Michael Bay slow motion overload I can handle, though I supended my gag reflect in that case because it was necessary due to the action. When they overcranked for the playback latter (or just slowed down in the case of CGI), I actually appreciated it in this Bay film. And I do not like Michael Bay films. South Park knows what I'm talking about.

In stereoscopic, low-shutter angle strobing or judder (think Saving Private Ryan, Gladiator, or every episode of CSI Miami), is unavoidable when using CGI when things move. And this is, after all, motion pictures. While you can fudge 2D-film's 24fps flaws a little by using a full 180 degree shutter angle to capture motion blur (the above instances artistically didn't), synthetic 3D blur with CGI looks even worse than the real judder effect...which is terrible at 24fps on a wide FOV in stereo. My advise for Hollywood is to put stereoscopic on the backburner until either Maxivision 48 or Digital Cinema 60p (I'd even accept 1080p/2k) are established in the marketplace first. From there, 3D will have a solid, motion-wise and metaphorical, foundation to build itself on in the future.

Then again, with 3D taking off and more people noticing the flaws of 24fps as it goes stereo, we might get higher-rate capture & projection as a matter of course...even if it seems ass-backwards in which comes first to my mind. I'll tell you, though, the first action or martial arts film shot and projected with wide release at high frames per second will be a monster hit whether it sucks or not, whether it is in stereo or not. Not because it's a gimmick any more than that first footage of the train coming right at the audience. People will be entranced...

And children will not look away.

That should have been "gag relex", though I do often reflect on my dislike for Armageddon.

I forgot to add I'm not recommending the abandonment of 2D if high fps 3D ever takes off. Personally I don't think there's such a thing as photographic composition in a 3D film. You have to look at the visuals more like a stage production, virtual reality, or dreamscape. It's artistry, but of a different kind. If we're talking about painting and photographic art, though, 3D robs you of it.

I should also modify my use of mezmerize. In the case of Up, being mezmerized by the stereo did not damage my enjoyment of the story...certainly nothing close to what the uncomfortable glasses on top of glasses had the potentional for.

One could easily be over-mezmerized by high-speed 2D and 3D stereo equally with enough visual distractions to titilate our latent Teletubbies instinct to follow flashy, colorful things with our eyes in amazement. It's easy to see how either could be abused, such as by releasing an endless number of popcorn, non-narrative martial arts flicks in MV48. In a way it's possible 24fps has prevented the artform from being entirely ruined by fast motion and action all the time.

I hope not, because I'd like to be mezmerized AND moved...

By moving pictures.

(1) Here's an opinion on why Pixar's creative team is so successful:

At Pixar, they bounce ideas off each other, they have animators who continually show them what their ideas would look like on screen, and both the writers and the visual artists get critiques from the group and go back to the drawing board as many times as necessary until they achieve the magic and the emotional impact they're looking for.

If you can create an entire movie in your head, and write it down, you're a genius. But the creative process for a movie is rarely so efficient. It can't take months to get 120 pages written.

The writer is trying to create an emotional response in the audience. And once you've played a scene in your mind a hundred times, you don't feel the emotional response. You might need to ask someone if they "feel the magic."

At most studios, the execs buy a script, and hire someone to direct it.

At Pixar (I think) a director come up with an idea that he wants as his next project, and the whole team works together to turn it into a movie. The animation process isn't separate from the writing. They don't have to bring in actors and hope they get it.

(2) Thanks to strong reviews, many teenagers who would have seen "Land of the Lost" on Sunday chose "The Hangover" instead.

BBC: The Hangover's takings in the US and Canada, originally projected to be $43.3 million were $44.9 million.

Up...$44.1m. came in second

Studio estimates had put LOTL at $19.5m... but the final tally was only $18.8m. (end)

Conventional wisdom says older women are influenced by reviews. and every review I read complained about a lack of female characters in Pixar's movie. The movie had "magic" while Ellie on the screen, then lost it.

Reply to: Ebert: This is a story as tickling to the imagination as the magical animated films of my childhood, when I naively thought that because their colors were brighter, their character outlines more defined and their plots simpler.... "Up" begins with a romance as sweet and lovely as any I can recall in feature animation. Two children named Carl and Ellie meet... a daring adventurer named Charles Muntz uses his gigantic airship to explore a lost world on a plateau in Venezuela

Audiences enjoy a romance that is innocent and sweet and lovely. And the studios are churning out "The Proposal" where Sandra Bullock blackmails a younger looking Ryan Reynolds.

Again, I think "The Sound of Music" is the best example of "the missing movie" that modern audiences are searching for. The heroine is about to become a nun, loves God, and lives in an abbey where she goes out to the hills and meadows and sings. Why does she sing? Why is she lonely? The smartest person in the film, Mother Superior, sends Maria to a house full of children, and she teaches them to laugh and sing. Not much conflict there. Some internal conflict where Maria enjoys her new life too much... for half of the movie, the major conflict takes place inside Maria's thoughts and imagination. She has made a promise to "marry Jesus" and now she's changing her mind. It's a struggle.

It's interesting to compare this to ET. A very personal movie. Universal has worked on a sequel:

VARIOUS: Several script writers proposed different concepts, which involved ET saving Earth from an invasion by a hostile species of extraterrestrials, ET helping Earth avoid ecological disaster or ET leading to the disclosure to the citizens of Earth that alien entities are in fact real.

Spielberg and E.T. screenwriter Melissa Mathison collaborated on a nine page story, dated July 17, 1982, treatment titled E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears.

The story opens with the landing of a familiar looking spaceship in a familiar looking forest clearing. A hatch slides open... the extra-terrestrials inside are an offshoot of E.T.’s race, an albino mutation who are evil and have been at war with E.T.’s people for decades...They look like ET, but are pale white, emaciated creatures with visible veins and bulging red eyes and sharp teeth. Carnivorous, they kill with their fingers the way that ET healed. They have followed ET's distress call to his parents. Elliott's family barricades themselves inside the house while the creatures try to get in,

Steven Spielberg refused to re-cast the Elliott character with a younger actor. Universal was reluctant to continue the story without the approval and involvement of Steven Spielberg.

The April issue of Empire magazine was guest-edited by Spielberg. In a section near the back, Spielberg answered questions from actors and fellow directors. Eva Mendes asked if he “would ever make E.T. II” and joked that she “would fight Drew Barrymore for a part in it!”

Spielberg responded that “Eva doesn’t have to worry about a bout with Drew because I’m never going to make E.T. II — E.T. is a closed story. It had a beginning, middle, and a definite ending, and we had nowhere to take it except to go home with him. Nor did I want to bring him back to Earth for a second time.” (end)

Sorry to get off on a tangent, but it's interesting to see how

(1) writers come up with a story idea

(2) then sleep about it, and decide it wasn't good enough.

Apparently Spielberg and Mathison thought enough of the idea to write nine pages (unless it's a hoax, which I saw mentioned as a possibility, too) before Spielberg decided that any kind of sequel would do great damage to the ending of the original.

You have to admire Pixar for doing so much work in-house, where writers have the freedom to discuss their ideas in group sessions where everyone is on the payroll and everyone is working toward the same goals. I read that Docter discussed the possibility that Muntz had found the Fountain of Youth, but rejected it because "then the movie is all about the Fountain of Youth."

At long last, I finally saw "UP" today - in 2D.

I can't remember the last time a film started so well. What a GREAT back story! I had a grapefruit stuck in my throat just minutes into it, and found myself reaching for a Kleenex by the time it was over! I actually sniffled loud enough to be heard when Ellie failed to make it up that hill. It was beyond moving.

And then he's all alone. But not for long.

Evil has arrived in the form of Real Estate developers! Gasp! The soulless corporate enemy literally has NO human face - did you notice that Roger?! The boss? Brilliant visual subtext! We know it's not the end of Carl and he won't be heading off to some retirement home but we still BOO and HISS when we see the "suits" at the gate.

HURRAY went up with a joyful cheer when the screen suddenly filled with balloons and he was off! But not alone - Russell, the wilderness explorer and stowaway was coming along for the ride!

Note: the scene when Carl "imagines" how to rid himself of his unwanted stowaway and dangles Russell from a makeshift rope over the city rooftops only to accidentally send him plunging to death - "nope, that 'ain't gonna work" - was HILARIOUS!

The storm was okay but I was more impressed when shapes began appearing out of the mists... high altitude rock formations! Didn't see that coming! And then they land, and see the waterfall and decide to "walk the house" over and Russell's tired and he has to go to the bathroom - leading to questions pertaining to the digging of a hole... and then suddenly, "something" steals a piece of Russell's CHOCOLATE BAR!

GASP! And it turns out to be a very unusual bird! Russell calls him Kevin. Which is a very good name for said bird, as I dare say were I were to meet one that tall in the middle of the jungle wearing those many colors and with a penchant for chocolate, I'd call him Kevin too. Some names just work that way. And I loved how Kevin "talked back" to Carl to the point of mocking him to his face.

Best of all though, was meeting "Dug" the golden retriever. Where oh where, do I begin with Dug who hides under your porch because he loves you!


Oooo! And "Alpha" the doberman with the malfunctioning voice collar and his evil doggie minions -;=1


Note: and the "cone of shame" is a moment that will go down in cinematic history, you mark my words Roger Ebert. People will be quoting that for decades - it's already on you tube...

I haven't said much I know, about Carl or the villain Charles F. Muntz, but that's because I was more captivated by how well the writers seemed to understand the way dogs THINK. Sure, they'll serve you dinner but then they'll try and eat it too. And sure, they'll guard the bird cage - unless you show them a BALL. And then there's the whole flying attack sequence with WWI planes and using bone-shaped squeaky toys as the "button!" so they can fire-off syringe darts by biting down on the squeaky toy - awesome!

So needless to say, I loved the movie! Tons of fun! And a good little cry at the start, too. :)

So far, all we have is Friday night, but...

The Hangover $ 10.4 million
UP $ 8.8 million
Taking of Pelham 1:23 $ 8.2 million

Star Trek $228 million (US and Canada, so far)
UP $165 million

Reply to: I can't remember the last time a film started so well. What a GREAT back story!

Somewhere in all the interviews, Docter said that Ben Bird had written "notes" for the back story... not sure what that means, but yes, it almost seemed like a better writer punched it up.

(2) Last night, Francis Ford Coppola was interviewed about his latest film, and they asked if any of the "Godfather IV" rumors were true (ie, Leonardo DiCaprio was going to play Sonny Corleone, Andy Garcia would come back as Sonny's offspring, etc.)

Coppola said that he assumes Paramount will eventually make a "Godfather IV," since they own all the rights, but he won't be connected to it.

Where did the rumors come from? Coppola says that he had offered to assist the late Mario Puzo in writing a final film before he died in 1999, because Puzo wanted to bequeath some money to his children.

"He and I cooked up an idea for what there would be for The Godfather IV and we went to Paramount... and we said, 'Look, Mario is not well. Hire him to write this Godfather IV script, I will help him, do it for nothing...' "Mario was very concerned to leave his kids some money and they just never made the deal... Mario died and it was heartbreaking..."

Trivia: Coppola didn't want to direct "Godfather II" and suggested a hot young director named Marty Scorsese. Paramount said "No Scorsese."

So, what it sounds like is, Paramount's waiting for someone to show them a spec script for "Godfather IV" that tells... well, a story like Carl and Ellie. A story with enough heart.

I have an idea. How about

"Godfather IV: The Johnny Fontaine Story"

In the original novel "The Godfather," singer (and future movie star) Johnny Fontaine appeared in several scenes that never made it into the movie. The movie stayed focused on the journey of Michael Corleone, starting with the wedding of his sister Connie in 1945, and sending Michael to Sicily for three years.

I like the idea that "Godfather IV" would go back to the year 1945 and show the conversation Johnny Fontaine had with his Godfather at Connie's wedding. "The Godfather" should be a story set in the Forties, or even the Thirties. Then show how Johnny got his career back on track. Show how the Corleone family built a casino in Las Vegas, and Johnny Fontaine was the headliner for ten years.

On June 16, a 1955 Frank Sinatra movie called "Suddenly" will be released on DVD. It takes place in a small town where the President is about to make an unannounced visit. Sinatra plays one of the bad guys, and their mission is to kill the President of the United States.

In "Godfather 4," show Johnny Fontaine filming a low-budget movie where he's been paid by the Soviets to assassinate an American President in 1955. Then, he plays a soldier trying to STOP an assassination in "The Manchurian Candidate."

And then, show Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas. According to testimony that Oswald's wife gave the Warren Commission, he watched the movie "Suddenly" twice on television. In Dallas.

Oswald used to walk by a movie theater in Dallas, which was showing "The Manchurian Candidate." Most people assume he watched the movie at that theater.

Meanwhile, like Frank Sinatra, Johnny Fontaine campaigns for JFK. When he realizes that the assassination of JFK is connected to two movies he made - two movies that we've just seen him filming, and getting expert advice from professionals about the right way to fire a sniper's rifle at a moving target - he's crushed.

As I said, this idea just popped into my head when I heard Mr. Coppola say that Paramount would probably do a fourth Godfather, but he wasn't going to be part of it. In hindsight, could we create a second musical career for Johnny Fontaine? Using what we know about the big successes of the Sixties (Elvis and the Beatles and "That Thing You Do.")

There were lots of mob movies made before "The Godfather," but the Corleone family saga changed the rule book. Is it possible to do the same for a story about an enormously popular singer named Johnny Fontaine who outgrows the teeny-bopper set and finds success as a movie actor, only to be devastated when he realizes that the violence in his films may have triggered the most tragic murder in recent American history?

UP showed us that it's still possible to write a new, original story that grabs people, and makes them FEEL the emotions.

The most entertaining part of "The Godfather" was Tom Hagen's visit to the palatial home of a Hollywood producer, who wound up with a horse's head in his bed. Yes, Johnny Fontaine got the role in the war movie, but does anybody think the bad blood ended there? Did the producer ever get revenge? Here's the backstory that goes along with Johnny Fontaine asking his Godfather for a favor in the opening scenes of "The Godfather."

TRIVIA: It was a low point in Sinatra's career. His record sales declining, dumped by his movie studio, his radio series cancelled, and perhaps most frighteningly, sidelined for over a month with a ruptured vocal cord, Frank Sinatra was in the depths of despair. Following a well-received appearance on Bob Hope's TV show on May 27th, 1950, the singer signed with CBS for dual television and radio shows to begin in the fall. The radio show aired on Sunday afternoons. The TV program, entitled The Frank Sinatra Show, was broadcast on Saturday nights opposite the formidable Your Shows of Shows. Then CBS moved the program to Tuesdays at 8:00 pm - opposite Milton Berle's Texaco Star Theater, an even bigger ratings powerhouse. At a cost of $41,500 an episode - an estimated total loss to CBS of a million dollars - the show was just too expensive to continue, and the network cancelled it.

In order to avoid a conflict with Marty Scorsese's Sinatra movie, you could create a different Johnny Fontaine, a character who isn't based on Sinatra as much as a singer named
Pierino Ronald Como (aka Perry Como)
whose mother, Lucia Travaglini Como, was an immigrant from Palena, Italy...

Why? Perry Como was a television success story. Sinatra wasn't.

Perry Como

On January 28, 1940 the NBC network began a new musical quiz show with audience participation. It was called Beat The Band, and the band was the Ted Weems orchestra including Perry Como. The show ran for one year and was broadcast from the band's home base in Chicago.
Starting in 1950, Como hosted a 15 minute musical variety series on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, immediately following the CBS Television News. The Faye Emerson Show was broadcast in the same time slot on Tuesday and Thursday.

Como moved back to NBC in 1955. His new show was on Saturdays, extended to an hour long. On September 15, 1956, the season premiere of The Perry Como Show was broadcast from NBC's new color television studios at the New York Ziegfeld Theatre, making it one of the first weekly color TV shows. In 1959, Como moved to Wednesday night, hosting the Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall for the next five years. Perry Como became the highest-paid performer in the history of television to that date

I could see Johnny Fontaine hosting his own 15-minute TV show, three times a week, singing "Catch A Falling Star" and "Magic Moments" and introducing the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. And headlining at the new casino in Vegas owned by the Corleone family and Moe Greene. Being a family man and a Catholic, he's disturbed that his Godfather runs every form of prostitution in Las Vegas.

Coppola won an Oscar for "Godfather II" because he was able to tell two new stories simultaneously, Vito as a young man, and Michael trying to run a casino in Nevada. What's the counterpoint to the career of Johnny Fontaine? Something to do with prostitution is one suggestion. Trying to keep his public image squeaky clean with his marriage to Ava Gardner, while carrying on with a prostitute working for the Corleones. Every day, he gets in deeper and deeper, losing his moral compass because he can't bear to give up either of the two women he loves.

Sort of like... the rumors about JFK and Marilyn Monroe. Fontaine wouldn't be the first entertainer to go into politics (Reagan and Schwarzenegger) and run for President.

AFI 100 Greatest Movies

Ebert: To read over the film institute's list is to remember spine-tingling moments in movie theaters. The ballet of space ships in "2001." The soaking-wet dance in "Singin' in the Rain." The scary perfection of Astaire and Rogers, the perfect anarchy of the Marx Brothers, the anarchic warfare in "Apocalypse Now," the warfare of obsession in "Vertigo."

The decade between 1945 and 1955 marked a major change in the music industry. Five different record companies (Decca, Roulette, Columbia, RCA and Atlantic) turned down "That'll Be The Day" by Buddy Holly.

When Decca Records released "Rock Around The Clock" by Bill Haley And His Comets in 1954, most people had never heard the phrase "Rock And Roll." The label on the single called it a "Novelty Foxtrot."

July 1950: “Your Hit Parade,” a popular radio show, makes its debut on the new medium of TV.

1953: Dean Martin records his first million-seller, “That’s Amore.”

March 1955: Bill Haley and His Comets’ “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock” is the first rock ’n’ roll song to be featured on the soundtrack for a movie, “Blackboard Jungle.” It’s also the first rock ’n’ roll song to become a No. 1 national hit.

One thing about "The Godfather." Puzo wrote the novel for money. Coppola made the film to get out of debt. They didn't mind killing off all the favorite characters. Connie's marriage was later revealed to be a sham, in order to set Sonny up.

Johnny Fontaine starts out like a 25 year-old Michael Corleone. He sees all the bad stuff, but he doesn't want to be involved. And slowly, they pull him in. In order to protect his family, he does things he never thought he would do. Every time he goes to Vegas, he's treated like a king.

I don't know if the audience will accept a "Godfather 4" without Al Pacino, but I'm pretty sure that it has to be set in New York, in the decade between 1945 and 1955, in order to recreate the nostalgic atmosphere of the original movie. At the end, the audience should feel "Now we know how network television started." With tabloid celebrities like Sinatra and Ava Gardner and Dean Martin.

The publicity machine has started for "The Biggest Movie of the Summer" and we're guessing how much "Transformers 2" is going to make.

LA Times: Shia LaBeouf was signed to do the first "Transformers" before "Disturbia," his first starring role, was a surprise hit. He received an upfront sum of $500,000. For the sequel, his paycheck is estimated at $5 million.

Michael Bay's deal passed on a fee for directing and executive producing in exchange for a slice of the profits from all the film's revenue sources. Bay's final take: somewhere in the neighborhood of $75 million.(end)

Seventy-five million dollars? This explains why "Godfather IV" is such an attractive possibility. The studio wants to cut the budget, spend as little up front as possible, and if it hits big, share the profits. After "Godfather III," it would take a miracle to get the franchise back on track. The budget for "Up" was $ 175 million, plus another (estimated, Disney hasn't released the actual numbers) $ 150 million for marketing.

Was "Up" worth $ 175 million? To everyone involved in making the picture, it certainly was. The positive critical response to "Up" will have a ripple effect for decades.

Can we agree that "Godfather III" lost the narrative thread of the first two movies? For some reason, Michael Corleone got involved with the Vatican. The film assumed that the ultimate of ultimates for a Mafia Godfather was going into the real estate business with the Pope, and quite frankly, it just didn't work.

My thought is, the title "The Godfather" refers to the relationship between Vito Corleone and his godson, Johnny Fontaine. It doesn't describe the relationship between Vito and Michael, because they are father and son. The only way that "Godfather IV" makes sense is, IF you can pull off a story that, at the end, everyone agrees that the first three movies were just setting up the complex relationship of the five families, before we got to the REAL story of Vito's relationship with his godson, Johnny Fontaine.

In "The Godfather," we learn that the Corleone family's wealth comes from gambling, prostitution and loan sharking, but Vito doesn't want to see drugs to children.

You could make up a story for Fontaine's relationship with his Godfather, but why bother when the real story is so well known?

LINK: In 1951, Sinatra visited Reno to establish residency in order to divorce his first wife Nancy. Sinatra was joined at the Riverside Hotel by actress Ava Gardner, and the couple spent the Labor Day weekend at Lake Tahoe, drinking and gambling at the Cal Neva Lodge.

Sinatra loved the 24-hour casino excitement and high roller lifestyle. By the late 1950s, he owned a percentage of the successful Sands Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas and enjoyed spending summer vacations relaxing at Lake Tahoe.

During the 1940's and 1950's, the Cal Neva Lodge was popular with serious gamblers, some with links to the criminal underworld. When Sinatra took over in 1960, construction started immediately on the Sinatra Celebrity Showroom as a venue for big-name entertainment.

A helicopter pad was part of the new roof design so that high rollers could be flown between the Lake Tahoe and Reno properties.

Sinatra ordered a secret tunnel built beneath the Lodge so guests could travel between the showroom and the bungalows behind the hotel without being seen. Entrances to the tunnel were located at Sinatra's office, in the closet of his small lake view cabin and at his private heliport atop the resort's showroom.

Sinatra and other celebrities frequently used the secret underground passageway to avoid paparazzi and autograph hunters. Lined with brick walls and carpeted, the tunnel ran beneath the kitchen, casino and Circle Bar.

Sinatra's friends (ie, the "Rat Pack") performed at the Cal Neva regularly; Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Eddie Fisher and others. During the summer months, Mickey Rooney, the Andrews Sisters, Shirley Jones, the Modernairs and Vic Damone headlined there. Other noted stars from this bygone era include the sexy dancer Juliet Prowse, Latin singer Trini Lopez and the popular Maguire Sisters.

Sinatra's close friendship with movie star Peter Lawford, the brother-in-law of President John F. Kennedy, inspired rumors of furtive exploits in Tahoe by JFK and his younger brother Robert. Legend has it that whenever Jack or Bobby were visiting Sacramento, Sinatra would send his private helicopter for them.

According to Governor Grant Sawyer's oral history, "When Kennedy and Pierre Salinger and their party got to Reno, they eluded the press and sneaked off in car and went up to Lake Tahoe and looked it over before coming to Carson City."

Marilyn Monroe was a frequent guest at the lodge. Monroe's bungalow, known as Cottage #3, was located next to Sinatra's Cottage #5, which enabled them to "visit" regularly. . After watching Juliet Prowse perform at the Cal Neva, Sinatra fell in love with her and in 1962 proposed marriage. Choosing to pursue her career instead, Ms Prowse turned him down, saying, "Frank wants a wife who will stay at home and cook the spaghetti."

By 1963 the Cal Neva Lodge had 11 cottages and 55 rooms. The Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) had established a list of "Excluded Persons" included known criminals, especially high profile members of the Mafia.

Sam Giancana was Chicago's top Mob boss, often called the "godfather" of the American Mafia, and a friend of Sinatra's. Giancana had financial interests in Las Vegas casinos like the Riviera, the Desert Inn and the Stardust. He had served time in prison and been arrested more than 70 times. It's been estimated that by 1960, Giancana had ordered the murders of more than 200 men. After being subpoenaed by a Chicago federal grand jury investigating organized crime, Giancana disappeared until he showed up at Sinatra's Cal Neva Lodge in August 1963.

When the Chicago Sun-Times published a story depicting Sinatra breaking up an altercation between his maitre d' and the banned Mafia kingpin, the NGCB revoked Sinatra's license for violating Nevada gaming regulations. (end)

Seems like enough of a "Chicago connection" to make a Sun-Times insider like Roger Ebert the natural screenwriter for this part of the saga.

Much of my proposed story would take place while young Michael Corleone was hiding in Sicily. Perhaps Vito Corleone used Michael's absence as an excuse to poke his nose in Johnny Fontaine's business.

I finally saw Up last weekend. It was the 3D version of the movie... which was beyond my control since it was a last-minute movie decision.

I must say, I see both sides of the argument on 3D. I have no solid bias either way... I did enjoy the movie and felt the 3D added to it in points, but in others, it pulled me out of the movie and made aware of the 3D-ness. Maybe I haven't seen enough movies in 3D yet (this was my first one since I was a kid), but I did feel that the 3D detracted from the movie slightly more than it added to it. There were some scenes that looked good in the 3D-realm, but most of the others just felt like an afterthought.

At least for children's animated features, I feel that the plunge into all 3D will be inevitable. When the movies come out on DVD/Blu-Ray, I imagine that the movies will contain both the 2D and the 3D versions. I'd imagine that the 2D-only version will be a rarity, but still available, for those who get headaches, can't see it, or just can't stand the 3D.

I'm torn. I do want to see 3D evolve into something that's more than just a gimmick, but I do feel robbed of what were probably some very vivid colors in the movie. Maybe James Cameron's Avatar will be revolutionary for 3D, but for now, I think I'm siding with you, I'd rather just see the 2D version.

My family and I are going to see "UP" tonight. We're taking my daughter's two best friends, as one will be out of the country for the summer, and this is our only chance to take him.

But we're going to see it at the Drive-In, one of the best ways to see a movie ever. The sound will be through the FM radio and we'll also use the crackly speakers, but after spinning on the spinner in the playground, the National Anthem plays with the flag projected on the screen. Then the opening cartoon, always a classic, perhaps Bugs, or Foghorn Leghorn, and next, we'll be seeing UP, with the stars above, the dancing hot dogs and acrobatic ice-creams, and the magic of summertime drive-ins.

There's only about 400 drive-ins left in the United States, so if you've got one close by, enjoy it while you can. Take your kids, and if you don't have kids, go anyway. It's still fun. We've seen all the Pixar films at the drive-in the first time we've seen them, and we always see them more than once, and can't wait till tonight. Family tradition.

I hear drive-ins are gaining in popularity in China. I hope they don't totally disappear from the US, as that will be a sad day when we've imported all our fun and memories to other countries.

It interesting to read a review after having watched the movie in question. I just think too many people tend to read the reviews before seeing the film and letting them make up their mind for them. Was I trying to make a point with my opening statement? Nope, just wanted to get that off my chest.

I watched the film over the weekend and I have to say that it is one amazing film, very enjoyable. I live in a small town and so the whole 3D thing is something that I don't have access to but looking at how wonderfully imaginative the picture is, do I really need to have glasses to make it come to life more so then it already is? I don't think so. The whole 3D thing gasped it's last breath back in the 80's in my opinion and we should all bury the darned thing (I have a shovel if needed).

The only thing I wish Ebert would do is mention the soundtrack now and then; the music brings me to films my father would bring me to when I was a kid (in many ways they don't make movies like that now). So really what did you think of the soundtrack, Ebert?

Having seen the movie in 3D before reading your review, I have to say that retrospectively I don't think it really diminished much in the movie. You are, of course, right about the goofy glasses -- beyond the fact that they would look hilarious with formal wear -- their tint does slightly diminish the colors, but it also has its pluses. While the 3D may not always be strikingly apparent, there are scenes that were made much more beautiful by it and action sequences where the 3D provided for a more striking effect than the small improvement in tint would have made. That said, I also did find myself lowering my shades for some scenes just to be able to drink in the richness of the animation. With and without the 3D glasses some scenes would cause me to stop and think to myself "wow," in a way that reminds me of my reaction to the amazing scenery in Peter Jackson's "King Kong."

Truly a beautiful movie; while it was fairly predictable, that definitely didn't stop the excellent execution from being at different points touching, exciting, and interesting on a deeper level. Over all the bombastic adventure, this film calls for an appreciation of the simple mundanities of life that we so often overlook, but which in the long run constitute some of our best moments. A fantastic piece of advice for a hectic world.

Weekend box office

Hangover $ 32.7 mil, down 27%
UP $ 30.7 down 30%

Could be interesting if "Year One" takes the audience away from Hangover's third weekend. UP should drop below $ 23 mil. Will that be enough to reclaim the top spot? Or will enough Sandra Bullock fans show up to boost "The Proposal"?

If you had to pick the "best" film to see this weekend, would it still be UP?

OK, back to Godfather 4: The Johnny Fontaine Story. Godfather 3 drifted off into fairy-tale land, with Michael Corleone investing hundreds of millions in the Vatican's real estate holdings. I think it's much more interesting to show how the mob actually worked.

The Corleone family was one of five families in New York. They were families, in the sense that their income was spread out among a lot of soldiers and middle management types. The mob saw Las Vegas as a way to make a lot of money... and they took a hefty commission by investing union pension funds.

... allegations of skimmed casino profits and secret investments by organized crime leaders based outside of Nevada. By 1977, the Teamster pension fund, regarded as corrupted by organized crime, had lent Circus Circus a total of $26 million. Federal investigators said that Sarno served as a "front man," allowing secret skimming of casino proceeds by mob interests in Chicago connected to the union pension fund.

Originally it was called Wilbur Clark's Desert Inn, after the owner, a San Diego gambler and developer. When construction funds ran out in 1948, Clark traded away 74 percent interest in the property to the Cleveland mob, led by Moe Dalitz. Clark remained as figurehead, but Dalitz and his partners were in control. Howard Hughes purchased the Desert Inn from Dalitz on March 1, 1967, for about $14 million.,_Southeast,_Southwest_Areas_Pension_Fund

Once nicknamed "the mob's bank," the Teamsters Union's Central States Pension Fund, based in Chicago, ... the rapid expansion of the Las Vegas hotel-casino industry following World War II. From 1958 to 1977, $250 million in low-interest loans to casino developers, many with ties to organized crime... the crime groups reaped untold millions in secretly skimmed profits.

While he was vice president of the Teamsters Union in 1955, James Riddle "Jimmy" Hoffa... negotiated the Teamsters' first centralized pension contract. The union assessed each employee a monthly fee of $2 for the pension fund, which raised $800,000 a month, or $10 million that first year. The fees were deposited into bank accounts meant to pay union retirees. Hoffa used Chicago organized crime figure Paul "Red" Dorfman to help him create union locals with new members devoted to Hoffa. The pension fund invested in real estate loans, often charging only six percent interest to his friends, allies, and mob associates. Hoffa charged kickbacks, usually a "finders fee" of ten percent of the loan amount.

The fund lent Hoffa's old friend, Morris "Moe" Dalitz, for hotel-casinos he controlled: the Stardust ($6 million) in 1960 and Fremont ($4 million) in 1961.

Additional loans... Caesars Palace, the Landmark, the Aladdin, Circus Circus... casinos in Lake Tahoe and Reno. Underworld figures earned millions by arranging for conspirators inside the casinos to "skim," or remove, untraceable cash from gaming tables and slot machines

In 1963, the pension fund held assets worth $213 million, nearly two-thirds of it in real estate loans across the country, mainly in hotels, shopping centers, and commercial buildings.

The Boardwalk Casino — modeled after Coney Island, with a replica of the parachute drop and facsimile wooden roller coaster on the roof — opened as a branch of the Holiday Inn hotel chain. MGM purchased the Boardwalk in 2000 and the casino was closed and imploded in 2006 to prepare for MGM's project City Center, a $7 billion resort and entertainment complex featuring high-rise condominiums and upscale hotels.

Puzo's original novel "The Godfather" treated Vito Corleone as the central character. The movie switched over to his son, Michael. Michael joined the Marines, fought in World War II, and when he came home, had to protect his father's life in the hospital over Christmas. It was, dramatically, a test of Michael's character. Would he risk his life to save his father? Of course.

What's the similar test of character for Johnny Fontaine? If there isn't a powerful dilemma that lesser men would fail, but Johnny Fontaine somehow struggles through, the movie doesn't work.

I should say something about the casting of the role of Frank sinatra in Marty Scorsese's new sinatra movie. I don't think Leo DiCaprio can pull it off. Sinatra was 5'7" and he used his voice to make people pay attention to him. If the actor isn't the shortest guy on the screen, shorter than many of the women in high heels, then Sinatra's personality doesn't come through. James Marsden wants the role. He could lose weight, but he's still too tall.

As a boy, Sinatra thought about being a sports reporter, before he won an Amateur Hour. At one point, he was broke. (Before he got the role in "From Here to Eternity.") After that, Sinatra would lose his temper when he thought anyone was trying to damage his career, to send him back to the nightmare of poverty. ie, a writer named Mario Puzo pretended Johnny Fontaine was the godson of a Mafia don. That implied that Vito had a close personal connection to Fontaine's parents, which certainly wasn't true in Sinatra's case. The parts you make up, like the horse's head, which everyone knows never happened in Sinatra's life, should be the best part of the movie. Because then, you're seeing the story of Johnny Fontaine, not Frank Sinatra.

It's easy to see why Pixar would invest $ 175 million in an original idea. ie, Let's show what happens inside a toy box after the boy turns off the lights and goes to sleep.

Carl, age 78, holding brightly colored ballons on strings. And a director who had once visited Venezuela and thought it would be the perfect place to take a vacation.

Almost seems too simple for a $ 175 million movie.

(2) Haven't read anything new about the casting for Scorsese's "Sinatra" movie.

“It won't be a cradle-to-the-grave traditional portrait of the consecutive events in a man's life. Instead it's more of a collage and should feel like an album. It's a collection of various moments and impressions in Sinatra's life and together we hope they'll tell the full story and present full themes.”

Last night, I decided to re-scan the digital channels in my TV, and wound up on Telemundo. They show "novellas" and the ABC show "Ugly Betty" started as one. Anyway, about 9 or 10, there was a show with an actress who was as close to Ava Gardner's "image" as anyone. (including Kate Beckinsale.) I wish I could give you her name, but it was in Spanish. In the opening credits, she was dressed as a sexpot, and then in the show itself, she was wearing a police uniform and badge.

You probably know more about Sinatra and Gardner's romance than I do. I don't know how Scorsese is going to show it. But it seems like the kind of epic love story that belongs in the center of "Godfather IV: The Johnny Fontaine Story." You could even put her name in the title. Ava was 5'6" and Sinatra was 5'7", and it sounds like the iconic image of Luke and Leia holding hands at the end of "Empire."

WIKIPEDIA: In the Autumn of 1949, Gardner and Sinatra were both guests at the Palm Springs home of producer Darryl F. Zanuck. The liquor flowed.

Ava said, “You’re still married.”

Frank responded, “No, doll, it’s all over. It is done.”

Ava had been married twice since coming to Hollywood, to Mickey Rooney and Artie Shaw, and she knew exactly what Sinatra meant. If you marry the wrong person, all too quickly, "it is done." However, there was the small problem of Sinatra being Catholic. At that time in America, Catholics didn't get divorced. Ever.

For hours they drank and flirted. They left Zanuck’s party with a bottle of booze in hand. They clambered into Sinatra’s Cadillac and roared into the night.

Like two crazy kids, they were going nowhere fast.

They stopped in the small town of Indio. (Yes, they made out for a while. Right there on Main Street.) Sinatra opened the glove compartment and pulled out two .38 Smith & Wesson pistols.

Sinatra took aim at a street light and fired. Glass exploded. He aimed at another street light and hit it on the first shot.

Ava, a country girl who grew up around hunters, cried: “Let me shoot something.”

Sinatra grinned and handed her the second pistol.

Whooping like a Confederate soldier Ava Gardner aimed at the twinkling stars and blasted away.

Frank stared at Ava, mesmerized, and he knew beyond a shadow of doubt that he had finally found his soul mate. Here was the most beautiful woman in Hollywood shooting up the inexplicable universe.

Ava fired into the window of a hardware store. She shot the chambers empty and let loose a rebel yell.

Sinatra put the huge Caddy into gear and headed back to Palm Springs. They didn’t get very far before they heard a police siren.

Two small town cops approached with guns leveled.

Sinatra said to Ava: “Christ, what do these clowns want now?”

A few hours later, as Ava lay unconscious on a wood bench in the police station, a publicist from Los Angeles arrived by chartered plane with a black bag that he handed over to the cops. Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner were released. There was no official police record... (unlike Mel Gibson's DUI)

... Their public brawls were bigger and better than anything Madonna and Sean Penn would spark decades later. He was jealous of her leading men, She flipped if she saw him flirt. And she had an abortion without telling him. While his popularity waned, Show Boat (1951) established her as one of MGM's most bankable stars. (end of Wiki)

I can appreciate what Sinatra was going through. You finally meet your soul mate. You're broke, and she calls up the wife of a studio exec and gets you a role in "From Here to Eternity" that puts your career back on track. She plays a femme fatale in "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman"...

... based on a Dutch legend. Convinced his wife Pandora has been unfaithful, he stabs her, realizing later that she hadn't been unfaithful at all. He is cursed to sail his ship alone forever, unable to die, the curse unending until he finds a woman whose love is strong enough to die for him. We learn that Hendrick is the fabled Flying Dutchman, and he believes that (Ava Gardner) is the reincarnation of his beloved.

And Knights of the Round Table, as Lady Guinevere, wife of King Arthur who also loves Sir Lancelot (Robert Taylor.)

Sinatra married Ava in November of 1951. She spent her days pretending to be madly in love with Hollywood's hottest leading men... how could Sinatra NOT be jealous? But Ava wasn't really the femme fatale you saw on the screen. Those were OTHER people she played.

From her biography: Ava: My Story, pages 8-9:, especially movement to music, became a great passion with me. One of my greatest joys was the Holy Rollers [Pentecostals]. Elva Mae, the sweet little black girl who helped Mama out in the kitchen, used to take me to the services at the Tee's Chapel. And I just fell in love with the singing and the preaching and all the rest of that good old-time religion.
It would start with everyone quiet and reverent. The preacher would warm up with a few quotes from the Bible. Then, out of nowhere, he'd catch fire and give everyone hell. I'm here to tell you, there ain't much forgiveness in that old-time religion. "All of you down there in this congregation is sinners," the preacher would thunder. "And no sinner's going to escape hellfire and damnation. No sirree, no sirree." (end)

What happens next? Every Catholic in the United States writes Sinatra a fan letter, saying he's done a terrible thing by divorcing his good Catholic wife. In October, 1953 they separate. After a series of many failed reconciliations the two finally divorced in July 1957.

In 1951, Sinatra records "I'm A Fool to Love You."

I'm a fool to want you
To want a love that can't be true
A love that's there for others too

He puts his feelings about Ava out there for the whole world to see.

(3) The marriage between Johnny Fontaine and his soul mate... coming after his divorce... brings Vito Corleone back into the life of his godson. And we learn something about Vito. He tells his godson to go back to his first wife. And, for some reason, Johnny does it.

The "heart" of my concept for "Godfather IV" is the quirky, original love affair between Johnny and Ava, and how Cathoic guilt and wild-eyed jealousy makes him throw it all away. Not sure if Scorsese is going to focus on that in his biopic. But I'm pretty sure that Leondardo DiCaprio won't be able to pull it off. He's not volatile enough. He wouldn't get drunk and shoot out street lights. I think James Marsden might be too handsome to play a skinny kid like Francis Albert. Too handsome and too tall.

Friday night
The Proposal $ 12
(tie) Year One $8
(tie) The Hangover $8 (an impressive $ 134 mil total)
UP $ 6

When the dogs show up in their planes, the audience thinks "Now we're back to watching a cartoon show." There's a point where "Up" replaces charm with action...

You might ask, why Godfather IV? Why limit yourself to a franchise with immovable plot points established in 1972? Thirty-five years ago? First, there's budget. Paramount execs would sleep better investing in a great "Godfather" script, because it's a brand name.

Second, the mob connection of Johnny Fontaine is a piece of history. Scorsese made "Casino" with DeNiro and Sharon Stone, and that showed a very unpleasant side of the story. But you can't walk down the Strip in Vegas without wondering, "How did this all get here?"

From a review: a complex, multilayered, beautifully directed film, Martin Scorsese's Casino is a masterpiece of destruction and betrayal.... it's fascinating to watch these people run Las Vegas, control the flow of money, and then fall from the heights of power due to lust, hubris, and greed.

But... no HEROES.

I'm attracted to "Godfather IV" because everyone knows what a "Godfather" movie should be. Tom Hanks tries to describe the experience to Meg Ryan in "You've Got Mail." "That's my family, Kay. It's not me."

Johnny Fontaine is part of the Corleone family. His mob connections are a lot stronger than Frank Sinatra's in real life. After Sonny is killed and Michael goes to Sicily, Johnny Fontaine drops in on Moe Greene to make sure Fredo is treated right. He's a better brother to Fredo than Michael ever was.

In "The Godfather," Vito is presented with a series of requests. Kill the boys who raped a man's daughter. Stop an Italian from being deported back to Italy. Get a movie role for Johnny Fontaine. There's tension because there doesn't seem to be any possible way for Vito to do what he's promised... and then, he does it anyway. The Corleone family doing "the impossible" without breaking a sweat, draws us into their plight.

There could be something about the construction of the casinos in Vegas that's as iconic as the horse's head in the bed. The Godfather realizes that Jimmy Hoffa can't be intimidated, but if he vanishes, the union will just elect a replacement. Hoffa doesn't have a family. All he has is a job.

And there's a love story as powerful as Rhett and Scarlett. Johnny Fontaine is married. His marriage is over, the mood of the country is post-World War II, and Catholic movie stars don't get divorced. And then Johnny meets a woman who just takes his breath away. How much is he willing to give up to be with her?

"The Godfather" that we expect to see isn't a love story. It's a strange world where women raise the children and are completely isolated from the family business. Which means Ava Gardner is literally unlike any woman Johnny Fontaine has ever met before. She's a bigger movie star than he is. And she likes to shoot guns. Remember when the GOP thought they could sway public opinion by showing Sarah Palin with a gun? With Ava, you could do it right. A .38 revolver hidden in the glove box of a big Cadillac, or a compartment under the passenger seat, a gun that modern women could see themselves using someday...

Maybe that's the iconic moment. Three of the Bad Guys show up to intimidate a woman. They assume she will be frightened, but pulls a revolver from a secret compartment in her car and kills three of them, before they even think of drawing their own guns. Surprise!

And to protect her from reprisals, their bodies are taken to Johnny's casino, where concrete is being poured, and added to the mix.

The secret to writing an authentic "Godfather" script is, Mario Puzo didn't like the Mafia. He heard a lot of stories about them growing up, and they turned his stomach. He was trying to show Vito Corleone as a monster.... and for some reason, people liked monsters. As Michael said, "My father is a great man. He doesn't see any reason to obey rules or laws made by men who simply won an election." Puzo was trying to show how a son rationalized the knowledge that his father was a monster. How does Johnny Fontaine realize that his Godfather is a monster?

Earlier, I complained that "Up" had an underdeveloped antagonist. Carl went on a quest to have an adventure and keep a promise he made to Ellie. Meeting his childhood hero... wasn't much of a vindication of his life's admiration for the Legendary Charles Muntz and the Spirit of Adventure.

The best villain? Recently, Heath Ledger as The Joker. The original version of Darth Vader. Hans Gruber in "Die Hard." The worst? Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor. The clone of Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: Nemesis.

Coppola tried to cast the American government in the role of villain in Godfather II and III. And failed. why? Mario Puzo HATED the Mafia. The Mafia goons ARE the villains in his saga. The Corleone family, all the others, collectively they're the bad guys.

Johnny Fontaine? Maybe, maybe not.

Start with a team of soldiers. The same soldiers you saw in the opening of "Saving Private Ryan." One used to be a high school teacher before the war. Now the war is over, and they see how the Mob guys have expanded their empire while the good guys were overseas, stopping Hitler. They decide to steal some of the money that the mob is skimming from the casinos. They think that makes them the good guys.

We see the robbery go down, and Fredo calls his Dad and asks for some help finding out who would be stupid enough to rip off Moe Greene. Don Corleone sends some of his boys out. We assume that the Corleone family enforcers are going to have a really cool battle against the "Ocean's 11" wannabees.

But the Corleone guys stick out like a sore thumb in Nevada. Their suits are too shiny. They still wear funny hats. And then, the truth is revealed. This is part of the Big Move against the Corleone family. The enforcers have been lured out of New York, away from all their protective coloring, so they can be killed. Moe Greene set the whole thing up. He wants to get rid of Fredo and stop trying to pretend he likes having Don Corleone as his business partner.

Johnny Fontaine's doing a radio program from his new casino on New Year's Eve. The Big Band Sound from Reno, Nevada, featuring Johnny Fontaine as soloist. The World War II vets hide their loot in a Greyhound bus that goes from Las Vegas to Lake Tahoe and on to California. Their leader says the best way to avoid being identified is to ride home on a bus, as if they don't have a care in the world. And then, the enforcers from the Corleone family get on the bus. The bus stops at Johnny Fontaine's casino and they all get out to stretch their legs and have a cup of coffee. Then, it's the same thing as Sonny being ambushed at the toll booth. There's a fireworks display and a sniper on the roof, and he shoots all of the Corleone guys in the head. A truck pulls into the parking lot and the corpses are tossed in the back. Another truck pulls up, and the World War II vets throw the stolen money in the back seat and drive away into the night. Mission accomplished. The whole operation went off with military precision.

Okay, it needs some work. But the bigger question is, should this be in a Godfather movie? In the original "Godfather," Connie's wedding was supposed to take place in August, 1945. And yet, no one mentions two atomic bombs being dropped on Japan. this would be a good way to bring in the soldiers returning home, and what they really went through.

Seven men were trained to fight a war... and then the war ended. So they started a new one.

And Johnny asks one of the writers at the studio to turn it into a script... called "Ocean's 11."

From Wikipedia: Ten World War II 82nd Airborne veterans rob five casinos (Sands, Desert Inn, Flamingo, Riviera, and Sahara) on a single night. Peter Lawford was first told of the basic story by director Gilbert Kay who had heard the idea from a gas station attendant. Lawford bought the rights in 1958 imagining William Holden in the lead. Sinatra became interested in the idea and a variety of different writers worked on the project. Shot during the day and the wee hours of the morning, Frank Sinatra also performed on stage during the evenings at The Sands hotel. Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop joined him at the Sands on stage during filming.(end)

At some point, Johnny Fontaine realizes that Don Corleone is a monster. He sees the truth, that in Mario Puzo's saga, all of the Mafia guys are bad guys. It's like sitting in a courtroom when your brother is on trial for murder, and you realize he's guilty.

I've been working on my concept for "Godfather IV" and I think it ends with a version of the JFK assassination. Because of the deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, I may put off posting for a few days.

However.... according to a man named James Files, the Kennedy assassination was ordered and carried out by:

(1) Tony Accardo, the last great mob boss in the history of Chicago, who died in his sleep of heart failure at St. Mary's Hospital. On May 27, 1992,

(2) Sam Giancana, who was murdered in his home in Oak Park, Ill., in 1975 — shortly before he was to have appeared before a Senate committee investigating assassinations. Seven .22-caliber bullets were blasted into his mouth and neck, Mob symbolism for "talks too much."

(3) Charles Nicoletti was shot three times in the back of the head in chicago. On 29th March, 1977,

James Files claimed an interesting role for himself in the assassination. He said that he was stationed on the grassy knoll by Nicoletti, and that two CIA agents with phony Secret Service credentials were standing in front of his hiding place, keeping people away. He was ordered not to fire UNLESS it appeared that the other gunmen had failed to kill JFK. (ie, evidence of a second gunman would raise too many questions.)

Files said that he used a handgun called a Remington XP-100, which used a bolt-action mechanism to shoot one .22 caliber bullet at a time.

SITE: The barrel of the Fireball pistol was too short to allow the slow burning rifle powder to burn completely. Consequently the unburned powder ignited when it hit the air at the muzzle....creating a boom and a fireball....

SITE: The ammunition that Oswald is alleged to have used was standard full-metal jacketed military ammunition, one round of which was found on a stretcher at Parkland Hospital, (Warren Commission Exhibit 399.) It conforms to Geneva Convention standards for humane conduct of warfare and does not explode. The lateral cranial X-ray of the President's head displays a pattern of metallic debris which could not have been caused by ammunition of the kind Oswald was alleged to have used

James Files said he brought six bullets to Dealey Plaza. six "special rounds" prepared by his main "weapons man," a Chicago area resident named "Wolfman". Hollow-point bullets were filled with mercury and capped with wax. Files summoned "Wolfman" to the Joliet prison and told him that he was planning on "opening up" about the JFK murder.: Wolfman died approximately one week after his visit with Files and before he could be interviewed. His cause of death is unknown.

There's an easy way to tell whether Files is telling the truth. Look at the autopsy photos of JFK's skull. there are two options:

(1) a single 6.5mm metal-jacketed round with a muzzle velocity of 2000 fps, or

(2) the bullet in #1 PLUS a .222 caliber "mercury filled" round designed to explode on contact, fired from a prototype handgun with a muzzle velocity over 3,000 fps, hitting the skull less than a second apart.

It should be obvious to any qualified forensics expert which possibility is correct.

Showing that the attack on JFK involved three different gunmen... one firing from the grassy knoll... could make a powerful ending to "Godfather IV." Only, move it to Chicago for the movie. Make it a St. Patrick's Day Parade....

Mr. Ebert, Carl kinda looks like you.

Finally saw "Up" this evening and it moved my wife and me to tears. Has another animated film ever conveyed such poignancy in its depiction of love as that beautiful, silent "Carl and Ellie" sequence? Man oh man.

We saw 'Up" in 2D, by the way. I'm honestly not the least bit curious to find out what "Up" looks like in 3D. But the 15-minute block of previews giddily featured at least three upcoming animated 3D movies. I read your Katzenberg piece about Tru3D back in December, and I appreciate his enthusiasm, but the medium simply doesn't grab me. Why would I want an extrasensory experience to distract me from the movie? Hell, even Smell-O-Vision would be less intrusive.

I saw "Up" for the second time last night. The first time I saw it, I chose 2D for the obvious reasons, and, perhaps, because of a bias from everything I've viewed in 3D in the past. 3D, to me, has always been something poorly done, a bit obnoxious, and much too gimmicky. (Of course, most of my prior 3D experiences were in Disney themeparks.)

The second time, I decided to see it in 3D, to see if anything could be gained. I was pleasantly surprised- I didn't feel that "Up" lost much in the transition from 2D to 3D. It was, as a whole, very tastefully done. For the most part, it simply seemed to add depth to the art, and there were relatively few "jumping over the audience" surprise scenes. There was definitely a loss in color quality, but something was gained in depth of field. 3D felt more like a tool to view the picture in depth than a flashy distraction. It was pleasant and enjoyable, though not necessarily worth the price hike.

I would like to see what the future has for 3D. I think it could be interesting and beautiful, if done properly. I also think it could be horrifying.

Transformers II in 3D is what comes to mind. Not a pleasant thought at all.

I've been reading through the current JFK assassination literature, and quite frankly, I want to get it out of my head. I have an image of a 21 year-old punk from Chicago who served a tour of duty in Laos, and was eager to work as a contract killer for gangsters in his home town. A dumb, arrogant kid who felt nothing horrific about a Mafia leader putting a contract on the President of the United States. Files claims this photo of him was taken by Lee Harvey Oswald:

(At the end of "The Rock," Cage finds a roll of microfilm. He asks, "Honey, do you want to know who killed JFK?" I assume this photo was on the film.)

In a book titled "Cover-Up," author Stewart Galanor discusses the statements of 212 people who witnessed the shooting, and answered questions during the Warren Commission hearings, plus another four from Mark Lane's interviews.

Where do you think the gunshots came from?

Texas School Book Depository = 47,

Knoll = 53,

Both TSBD and Knoll = 6,
Elsewhere = 5,
Not asked = 70,
Could not determine location = 35.

This seems to confirm Files' claim that three (or possibly four) gunshots came from the Dallas Textile Building and/or the Depository before he fired a single shot from the grassy knoll. His weapon made a louder noise, and by then people were looking around, trying to figure out where the shots were coming from.

Is it time for one big-budget movie to show the Kennedy Assassination in graphic detail, so today's generation can understand what happened? Or, would it be out of place and inappropriate in a "gangster movie" like Godfather 4? I'm still mulling that one over.

the only way I'd want to see a fourth Godfather movie... is if it deserves four stars.... the best movie of the year, possibly the decade... a movie that introduces us to a new family in the same way that audiences felt Sonny Corleone (Jimmy Caan) was really their older brother.

Nobody thinks that Frank Sinatra got the role in "From Here to Eternity" because a producer woke up with a horse's head in his bed. Puzo took an interesting story and made it larger-than-life. I don't think you can do that with the Kennedy Assassination. But you could make it the most emotional scene in the movie.

I would also have Johnny Fontaine offer some insights into Michael Corleone's character. When they were kids growing up together, Michael was always jealous of Sonny. Everyone assumed that Sonny would run the family and Mikey was going to go into politics. As soon as their father goes into the hospital, the first thing Michael does is gun down a New York City police Captain, effectively ending any chance of a career in politics. Johnny Fontaine thinks Michael always wanted to be Godfather, but he was afraid to tell his father.

And then, Vito Corleone learns about JFK. JFK had the career and the family that Vito wanted for his son. And when two mobsters from Chicago assassinate the President, how does Michael react? Is he happy?

At last I got to see this. I took my 73-year-old mom. (I was going to take my dad as well, but he decided on a nap instead. C'est la vie...) I didn't take my mom for any other reason than I thought it would be nice to treat her to a movie, but I am so glad we got to see it together because of the way the story resolved. We both were awestruck, not just by the visual brilliance, but the wonderful moral of the story. I personally think this should be required viewing for everyone over 60; and for that matter, for every American under 60, who fetishize youth and run away from any sign of age as fast as they can, instead of relishing the journey as it comes.

UP dropped from (third place) $ 23 mil
(fourth place) $ 13 mil, down 44%.

One of the many frustrating rules about the movie business is, a movie opening two weeks after yours can wipe out your box office. Luckily for Pixar, DreamWorks Animation didn't have anything similar.

Tom Hanks was a guest on Conan O'Brien's "Tonight" show, talking about "Angels and Demons." Given a Wish List, I'd love to hire Tom Hanks to play the comic (ie, Jerry Lewis) sidekick of Johnny Fontaine. The real Tom Hanks is twice as interesting as any of the characters he's played. Including the dour mob assassin in "Road to Perdition."

SITE: Nancy Barbato, Sinatra's first wife, was a cousin of a "key member of Willie Moretti's mob" as the FBI report put it. After their wedding, Moretti (a.k.a. Willie Moore) arranged several singing engagements for Sinatra, giving his career a boost. In 1949, when Sinatra was seen in public with Ava Gardner, Moretti sent him a telegram urging him to return to his wife. (end)

Sounds like a story that Mario Puzo used for the scene between Vito Corleone and Johhny Fontaine.

The Rat Pack: Humphrey Bogart and some friends went on a five night party binge in Las Vegas. When Bogart’s wife, Lauren Bacall, saw this group of red-eyed, tired, drunken friends, she observed that they looked like a “Rat Pack.” On a social front, Sinatra and company helped desegregate Las Vegas by refusing to perform or do business at any hotel that didn’t provide full service and amenities to African Americans.

Prince as Sammy Davis, Jr.? Sammy Davis did a comedy act in Vegas. At the end of one show, when he had run out of material, he started doing an impersonation of Jerry Lewis, who was in the back of the room. After the show, Lewis came back to Davis' dressing room, introduced himself, and urged Davis to keep the routine in his act with a few helpful suggestions. Sounds like the sort of thing Tom Hanks would do, doesn't it?

Marilyn Monroe: The actress died shortly after she bought her first home in Brentwood. She had been fired from "Something's Got to Give" and placed several phone calls to Bobby Kennedy, leaving messages with RFK's secretary, Angie Novello,

JFK and Monroe met (at least) five times between 1960 -- the year when Kennedy was elected president -- and August 1962. (1) A party at Peter Lawford's house in Santa Monica in October 1961; (2) a dinner party at the home of Fifi Fell in Manhattan in May 1962; (3) at Bing Crosby's house in Palm Springs on Saturday March 24, 1962 (according to Donald Spoto this was the only time a sexual "tryst" between the two occurred); (4) at Madison Square Garden for the President's 45th birthday gala and afterwards at a private party (Close friend, Ralph Roberts, said he gave Marilyn a massage after the party and left her apartment at 4 a.m. when she "was asleep".)

Marilyn's close friend, Susan Strasberg, said Monroe denied any long term affair had existed, "Not in her worst nightmare," Strasberg wrote, "would Marilyn have wanted to be with JFK on any permanent basis. It was okay for one night to sleep with a charismatic president -- and she loved the secrecy and drama of it. But he certainly wasn't the kind of man she wanted for life and she was very clear to us about this." (I guess the wife of Tom Hanks is Marilyn's best friend, and that would be played by Rita Wilson.)

Mickey Rooney claims he came up with the name "Marilyn Monroe," but that could be something for the character played by Tom Hanks to do. Make Tom Hanks her mentor, the man who hurt the most when she died. At the end, Hanks walks away from the mob, and challenges Johnny Fontaine to do the same. But Fontaine is in too deep. Johnny Fontaine realizes that he could have stopped the assassination of President Kennedy, but he didn't want to start an argument with the mob bosses in Chicago.

I love "The Godfather Theme" but it's the soundtrack for a Great Tragedy. Is the Johnny Fontaine story a Tragedy, like young Michael Corleone? Sinatra retired to Palm Springs and enjoyed a good life at the end, but Johnny Fontaine isn't Frank Sinatra. Johnny Fontaine is the Entertainment Industry. Before television, he was the headliner at supper clubs like the Copacabana. When television started, his 15-minute program followed the CBS Evening News. He went into movies. He owned 50% of a casino in Nevada, and retired to Palm Springs. How do you make "The Johnny Fontaine Story" say something important about the growth of the movie industry? "When the cameras aren't rolling, we're ordinary people, just like you."

I've just found out that some of my ideas appeared in a script for "Dino," a movie Tom Hanks wanted to make with Marty Scorsese. Hugh Grant was approached to play Peter Lawford. Adam Sandler as Joey Bishop. Nobody seemed to like the straight biography format:

Stax: Act One establishes Dean Martin as the inebriated, affable host of his own hit variety show... The relatively plotless, vignette-style of storytelling Scorsese and Pileggi employed in GoodFellas and Casino worked because ... those films were anthropological studies of a sub-culture. Casino fluctuated between too jarring and too slow. Dino is similar but it suffers more because, at the end, Dean Martin simply walks away. (From his family, his home, everything except the game of golf.)

(2) Pages 122 to 147 deal with the whole Sinatra-JFK-Giancana-Judith Campbell Exner affair. The party comes to an abrupt and tragic end when JFK goes to Dallas in 1963. The script implies the mob was behind his death; they openly wish for gangbuster Bobby's death. Pileggi stops the objective viewpoint in his writing when he gives us a full paragraph about what JFK's death means for all involved! That kind of thing wouldn't get past a freshman screenwriting class! There is a montage of JFK's motorcade and his funeral procession intercut with a recreation of the closing finale of Ocean's Eleven with Sammy singing the end song. (end)

The veiled implication that "the mob was behind JFK's death"... Why bother?

Does anybody think Tom Hanks can, or should, play Dean Martin?

SITE: A hernia got Martin out of the Army during World War II, and with wife and children in tow, he worked for several bands throughout the early 1940s. Failing to achieve a screen test at MGM, Martin appeared permanently destined for the nightclub circuit until he met fledgling comic Jerry Lewis at the Glass Hat Club in New York, where both men were performing. Martin and Lewis' official debut together occurred at Atlantic City's 500 Club on July 25, 1946, and club patrons throughout the East Coast were soon convulsed by the act, which consisted primarily of Lewis interrupting and heckling Martin while he was trying to sing, and, ultimately, the two of them chasing each other around the stage and having as much fun as possible.

Is this a possibility for Johnny Fontaine? Being heckled from the audience by Tom Hanks?

Jerry Lewis wrote: You have to remember: Postwar America was a very buttoned-up nation. Radio shows were run by censors, Presidents wore hats, ladies wore girdles. We came straight out of the blue –nobody was expecting anything like Martin and Lewis. A sexy guy and a monkey is how some people saw us, but what we really were, in an age of Freudian self-realization, was the explosion of the show-business id. Abbott and Costello, Hope and Crosby, they worked with a script. We exploded without one, the same way jazz musicians do when they’re let loose. Alan King told an interviewer a few years ago: “I have been in the business for fifty-five years, and I have never to this day seen an act get more laughs than Martin and Lewis. They didn’t get laughs–it was pan­demonium. People knocked over tables.” (end)

If Tom Hanks can re-create that, the concept works. Jerry Lewis was 19. He made faces while playing popular songs. He was more Jim Carrey than Tom Hanks. Dean Martin played a great-looking drunk who took a long time to understand, and then didn't care, what Lewis was doing to his show.

So, in "Godfather IV", Tom Hanks plays a different kind of comedian. Off-stage, he's older, wiser than Johnny Fontaine. He served in the war. He offers young Fontaine a moral compass. The mob is on this side, Tom Hanks is on the other side, and Fontaine has to decide where his life will go.

I see Tom Hanks as the mentor for Marilyn Monroe, played by Katherine Heigl. When she dies from a drug overdose, he cries. when JFK is killed, Hanks finally breaks character. He finds the punk kid who actually pulled the trigger in Dallas and makes him pay. Maybe he does it with Fontaine. They're doing five shows on stage in Reno, to establish an alibi. But Hanks, usually a beacon of all that is good in the world, steps out of the light in order to avenge the death of the President of the United States.

The death of Marilyn Monroe occupies the same spot as the death of Sonny Corleone in the original movie. Like Sonny's father, Hanks expresses honest emotion. She was so beautiful, everyone wanted something from her... and then, when JFK is killed, he loses it. The grief comes from Marilyn's death, bottled up for a year, while he tried to force himself to be a Good and Noble adult. But he reached the limit... and when he snapped, Johnny Fontaine went along. They were in it together, all the way.

Michael Corleone waited several years for the perfect moment to avenge the death of his brother, Sonny. And the death of his wife, Apollonia. After two such tragedies, we understood why he fought back.

When I read about Jim Carrey playing Jerry Lewis, I keep thinking, "Jerry Lewis should be 19 years old." The nightclub act needs "a sexy guy and a monkey." Johnny Fontaine is the sexy guy. And you need to see Tom Hanks is happily married to Rita Wilson, and Fontaine is married to a girl with mob connections, and they're both a little in love with Marilyn. In the same way that Sonny (James Caan) was our older brother.

Reply to: testington: If you're going to spend $100 million plus on a movie make sure the first $1 million is on a script worth filming.

Ebert: Your closing sentence should be printed on a billboard over Sunset Blvd. I have a feeling it will lodge itself in my memory and return in a review on of these days.

The first million? The script for Denzel Washington's iffy venture into the space-time continuum "Deja Vu" was bought by Jerry Bruckheimer for around $4.5 million, depending upon how various bonus clauses were met. Many studios bring in a "script doctor" to punch up certain scenes, and thus avoid paying some bonuses. I'm still wondering how much a "Godfather IV" script would be worth in today's dollars.

Francis Ford Coppola: I don’t think Godfather should have had more than one movie. It was not a serial, it was a drama. The first movie wrapped up everything. To make more than one Godfather was just greed. Basically, making a movie costs so much money that they want it to be like Coca-Cola: you just make the same thing over and over again to make money, which is what they’re doing now. There’s a law of diminishing returns. I mean, even as demonstrated with Godfather, once it shows you its stuff and has all these things you’ve never seen before, then each time you make it again, it’s gotta be less interesting." (end)

So, you don't make the fourth Godfather about the Corleone family. You make it about Johnny Fontaine, and you show "all these things you've never seen before."

The film producer in "The Godfather" was supposed to be based on Columbia's Harry Cohn. Cohn is upset because Johnny Fontaine has used his Italian charm... well, the funny thing is, in the real story the script was taken from, the girl was Marilyn Monroe.

SITE: Columbia Pictures originated with a man whose coarseness and bullying earned him such unloving nicknames as "Harry The Horror," "White Fang," and "His Crudeness": Harry Cohn. The New York-born son of Jewish immigrants, Cohn worked throughout the 1910s at numerous jobs, in and out of the entertainment industry. By 1918 he was an assistant to Carl Laemmle, the founder of Universal, who also employed Harry's older brother Jack. The Cohns left Universal in 1920, along with another ex-Laemmle employee, Joe Brandt, and formed the C.B.C. Film Sales Company -- dubbed "Corned Beef & Cabbage" by rivals unimpressed at the small studio's low-budget output. The studio's first feature, Cohn's production More To Be Pitied Than Scorned (1922), proved a hit, and in 1924 the Cohns and Brandt renamed their company Columbia Pictures.

A different version: Harry Cohn was a former NY pool hustler and gambler brought in by Chicago investors to front their investments in Columbia Pictures, and run their studio. He wore a sapphire ring that Johnny Roselli gave him.

SITE: Starlets who worked for Cohn had to endure at least one "hell week" of sleeping with Cohn if they intended to make it at Columbia, and, in 1948, it was Marilyn Monroe's turn. Cohn had always said that he considered Monroe "a second string no talent with tits" and that the only reason he hired her was that Tony Accardo, then boss of the Chicago mob, owned Monroe's career and had told Johnny Roselli to force Cohn into signing Monroe on with Columbia Studios.

Cohn had his way with Monroe of course, giving her bit parts in exchange for the favors. At the end of her original six-month contract, when she was summoned to his office for sex, the fickle and moody actress simply refused to go. She told Cohn that she was madly in love with Frank Sinatra, a man Cohn never liked anyway.

Sinatra, who was at the bottom of his career, probably had no idea what the erratic Monroe had told Cohn. Sinatra met Cohn and asked for the part of Maggio.

"Cohn looked at me," Sinatra said, "funny like, and said 'Look Frank, that's an actor's part, a stage actor's part. You're nothing but a hoofer.'"

Sinatra called Frank Entratta, who fronted at the Sands Casino for the powerful New York Mafia Don, Frank Costello and his partners, labor goon Joe Adonis and Chicago's Paul Ricca and Tony Accardo.

Entratta went directly to Frank Costello on Sinatra's behalf, and, working with Chicago's permission, Costello contacted Johnny Roselli out in Las Vegas and asked him to look into "this Cohn problem."

THE END OF JOHNNY ROSELLI: On August 9, 1976, Roselli's decomposing body was found in a 55-gallon steel fuel drum floating in Dumfounding Bay, Florida. He'd been strangled and stabbed, his legs had been sawed off and stuffed into an empty oil drum along with the rest of his body. Many believe Roselli had been ordered killed by Florida mob boss Santo Trafficante because Roselli had talked too much about the Kennedy assassination and Castro murder plots during his Senate testimony.

Back to Marilyn. According to actor Tony Curtis: If anyone had had a worse childhood than mine, it was Marilyn. She had been in foster care until the age of seven, and not long after her mother took her back, her mom ended up in a mental hospital. Marilyn spent the rest of her childhood bouncing from foster home to foster home until she got married at age sixteen just to get away.

That marriage had ended about two years before I met Marilyn. She had been discovered by a photographer who had seen her working in an airplane factory. Twentieth Century Fox signed her but let her contract expire. Then Harry Cohn signed Marilyn to a six-month contract at Columbia, and she had appeared in a movie called Ladies of the Chorus, which went nowhere. Harry had the reputation of demanding sex with his starlets before signing them, and I doubted that Marilyn escaped his clutches. But Columbia hadn’t re-signed Marilyn, either. When I met her, Marilyn Mon­roe was unemployed and still looking for her first real break. What I didn’t know was that Joe Schenck, the head of Twentieth Century Fox, had a place in LA where Marilyn stayed with him on weekends. Twentieth Century Fox hadn’t picked up her option, but Schenck sure had. Schenck was married, so during the week he’d go home and Marilyn would stay at her hotel. At this point I didn’t know about her arrangement with Schenck; I only pieced it together later. (end)

SITE: Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana and Frank Sinatra were intimate with Marilyn Monroe at Cal-Neva the week before she died, according to former Chicago FBI agent Bill Roemer, who was privy to electronic surveillance of Giancana and heard him discussing the incident with Rosselli. (end)

It's funny how everything in the life of Marilyn Monroe keeps coming back to mobsters from the city of Chicago.

So, the death of Marilyn Monroe occupies the same place in the structure of "Godfather IV" that Sonny's death did in the original. Sonny wasn't the hero. He was #3 behind Al Pacino and Marlon Brando, but and his death wasn't the inciting incident. That was Don Corleone being shot at the fruit stand.

Right now, my problem is, Johnny Fontaine is a different character than Frank Sinatra. Johnny Fontaine got his movie role courtesy of a horse's head, while Sinatra got his role as a result of phone calls.

When JFK is assassinated, what does Johnny Fontaine do? Does he tell Robert Kennedy what really happened? Does he take some kind of personal action? Does Tom Hanks, the good-guy comedian, team up with Fontaine (the way they did in Ocean's 11) to avenge the death of Marilyn? There are so many different ways to end this, and none of them come close to the impact of young Michael Corleone wiping out all of his family's enemies during the christening of his goddaughter in a church.

"Transformers 2" has just passed "Up" as the highest grossing movie of the year. (Go, Harry Potter, GO!)

New word for today: sabot

Lee Harvey Oswald said he was being set up to take the fall for the Kennedy assassination. How could the CIA frame one of their undercover operatives for a murder? One way is to use ammunition loaded with sabots.

SITE: The sabot (pronounced "sah-boh") comes from a traditional wooden shoe, synonymous with clogs. The word sabotage comes from sabot, as disgruntled employees would drop these wooden shoes into machinery to stop production.

A sabot is a polycarbonate or nylon sleeve that covers a bullet that is smaller than the bore diameter, which in turn gives higher velocities and flatter trajectories.

When the sabot reaches the end of the barrel, the large air drag causes the fingers on the front of the sabot to open outward, The high drag pulls the sabot away from the bullet. The bullet continues toward the target, while the lightweight sabot quickly looses velocity and falls to the ground.

SITE: Since the bullet is incased in the sabot, while traveling down the rifle barrel, it never touches the barrel. (end)

How do you use a sabot to frame an innocent man?

Oswald bought a 6.5 mm Italian war surplus rifle.

Take the rifle out to a field and fire a hundred rounds. Collect the bullets. Select intact bullets that have picked up the rifling grooves from the barrel of Oswald's rifle, reload them with sabots into the ammunition for a rifle larger than 6.5 mm.

The Marines in 1963 used a M40A1, a version of a 7mm Remington.

When the bullets are fired a second time, the nylon sabot prevents them from picking up new markings from the second rifle barrel.

The bullet APPEARS to have been fired from the original 6.5mm barrel... but it wasn't.

If Oswald was a lone gunman, there might or might not have been a conspiracy. But if there was a second shooter on the grassy knoll, waiting to take a final kill shot if everyone else missed, there was a very elaborate conspiracy.

I can't prove Oswald was framed, but it's certainly a viable possibility for a movie.

My concept is, after Johnny Fontaine (or Fontane, as it appears in Puzo's book) gets his role in "From Here to Eternity," he's so grateful to his Godfather that he goes back to his wife. So, Johnny's life is greatly different from that point than Sinatra's.

After Kennedy's assassination, Johnny goes straight to the new President, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and confesses what he knows, that a Godfather in Chicago put out a contract on the President.

Johnson knows more than Johnny does. He knows that the CIA put out a PHONY contract on Kennedy, and paid two million dollars in marked bills, so they could trace the money into mob bank accounts and businesses. All of the money winds up in Las Vegas casinos. President Johnson goes on television. He asks for the resignation of the head of the CIA, and everyone involved in the phony plot, saying they should have made protecting the life of the President their first priority and are incompetent bunglers. Then he reveals photos of every Chicago mobsters involved in the shooting, from Tony Accardo down to Jimmy Files, and says they are being arrested by FBI agents.

In other words, instead of a cover-up like the Warren Commission, Lyndon Johnson goes on national television and admits the government screwed up. He does the right thing. And, by implication, it argues that the real President Johnson did the wrong thing, by lying to the American people.

One of the reasons "The Godfather" is still ranked as one of cinema's greatest movies is the theme. Great casting, sure, but the overall themes of corruption and the honor code of the Mafia holding them to a higher standard than the police... gives it class.

Have Johnson admit that he knew about the PHONY plot to kill Kennedy, that it was part of the Attorney General's offensive against organized crime in America, and the US government is now going to seize six Las Vegas casinos because they were built using money stolen from pension funds or with mob money. change the way the story ends... to the way it should have ended.

with the Truth.

With the arrest and trials of everyone involved in the plot against JFK.

I think your review of Up is right on the money, except for the part about 3D. Having seen this film four times now, all four in 3D, I think the Pixar team used the technology brilliantly, and in service of the story. There were no stupid "reach out and touch it" gags, no flotsam and jetsam hurtling toward my face. Just an exquisite artistry that put me in mind of the vintage Disney multi-plane camera scenes. The first glimpse of Paradise Falls is as breathtaking to us as it is to Carl Fredricksen, because of the incredible depth and richness offered by the use of 3D.

I agree that in the vast majority of cases, 3D is overrated and misused. I saw Bolt in 3D, and found my resultant headache far more memorable than the cinematography. I find it depressing that 3D has become so pervasive. Like most technologies, it is a gimmick and often a cop-out -- "hey! We'll make the movie three dimensional so the story and characters will only need one!" But in the particular case of "Up," I felt it was as valuable to the story as the big screen was to Dances With Wolves. Yeah, you can see it on your TV, but it's going to lose a LOT in the translation.

Loved the movie. Looking forward to future Pixar features, as always.

"UP" earned $6.5 million, for a drop of 50%. It also lost 831 screens.

Transformers 2 $ 293 mil domestic
UP $ 264

(1) After his arrest, Lee Harvey Oswald was given a paraffin test. The Dallas police found gunshot residue on the palms of his hands, but not on his face. How could Oswald have fired three times, using a scope, without leaving GSR on his cheek? Does it make sense that Oswald was on the sixth floor and never fired a shot? There's probably a logical explanation that no one has thought of yet.

(2) In "The Godfather," Jack Woltz owns a movie studio. He tells Tom Hagen: "Johnny Fontane never gets that movie! That part is perfect for him, it'll make him a big star, and I'm gonna run him out of the business, and let me tell you why. Johnny Fontane ruined one of Woltz International's most valuable proteges. For five years we had her under training. Singing lessons, acting lessons, dancing lessons. I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on her, I was gonna make her a big star! And let me be even more frank, just to show you that I'm not a hard-hearted man, and that it's not all dollars and cents. She was beautiful! She was young! She was innocent! She was the greatest piece of ass I've ever had, and I've had 'em all over the world! And then Johnny Fontane comes along with his olive oil voice and guinea charm, and she runs off. She threw it all away just to make me look ridiculous!"

A few moments later, Tom Hagen sees a "Child Star" and her mother on the stairway to the second floor of Woltz' home. I always assumed the Child Star was the protege, but Wolfe said the protege "ran off".

One possibility: An older starlet named Marilyn Monroe was the protege, and for the next seventeen years, Woltz patiently waited to get his revenge. He never wanted to be in the same room with Vito Corleone, so he went to Chicago and made a deal. In return for a lot of cash and protection, he sold half of his studio to the Chicago mob. Woltz got "mobbed up" so the Corleone family couldn't touch him again.

In 1962, the studio hired Marilyn for a movie, and provided a doctor to give her enough drugs to get her addicted. He also provided a suppository of choral hydrate that killed her. Marilyn was anxious to sleep and she knew that a suppository was often more effective than pills that had to digest in the stomach.

At Marilyn's funeral, Woltz tells Johnny, "From the moment she met you, she was in love with you. When you went back to your wife, she was suicidal. And she never got over it. You killed her, Johnny, a long time ago."

Johnny goes home and talks it over with his wife. She understands. That's the role of a good Italian wife in the Godfather mythology. We realize that Johnny made the right choice by staying with her, that he would never have been happy with Marilyn. And they both cry over Marilyn's death.

All of the events build toward a climactic decision. After JFK is killed, Johnny goes to the government and tells everything he knows about the Mafia. He decides that a group willing to murder a President of the United States is too evil. He wants his wife to be given a new identity under witness protection. Johnny Fontaine testifies before a Senate committee and names names. Near the end, he says he owes it to Marilyn, who died because she went to work for a studio owned by the Chicago Mob. Maybe a flashback to Johnny as a child, playing with Tom Hagen and Santino Corleone. Santino sees a pretty girl drive by in a car, and he describes her using the same Italian phrase that Johnny always used for Marilyn. Make a connection between Marilyn and Sonny in Johnny's memory. "Sonny would have loved you." That's why Johnny always looked out for Marilyn. She was exactly the kind of beautiful blonde that Sonny always wanted to meet, but never did because he lived in an Italian neighborhood.

Show that a very young Marilyn had sex with Woltz in order to get her movie career started, and her guilt shaped the rest of her life. She decided to play by the same rules that the men did, because her knight in shining armor, Johnny Fontaine, went back to his wife after his Godfather told him to.

In New York, Vito Corleone gets a copy of Johnny's testimony. A lot of information about the mob in Chicago, virtually nothing about the Five Families in New York. Show the FBI arresting men in Chicago.

In real life, Sinatra divorced his first wife in order to marry Ava Gardner. He agreed to pay ten percent of his income as alimony until she remarried. She never remarried. She still uses the name Mrs. Nancy Sinatra.

Though I'm an avid Pixar fan, I hadn't been able to see UP in my local theatre when it was here. I was finally able to address this in a trip to Vancouver over the weekend.

First, the movie. Pixar hasn't made a "bad" movie yet, though I thought both RATATTOUILLE and WALL-E both suffered a bit in terms of story. Since Pixar's films have had strong stories as their hallmarks, I was begininning to fear that they'd begun the drift into mediocrity. UP, thank God, proved me wrong.

This is a lovely movie whose constituent audience may not be kids so much as those of us firmly entrenched in middle age. Sure, it has that sweet romance between Carl and Ellie, but it also has Carl's obsessive quest to memorialize his late wife, and Muntz's obsessive quest for redemption. These are not trivial themes. Mr. Ebert nailed it in his review when he referred to the story as "two old men battling for meaning in their lives." The characters are cannily-drawn, and the story flows from them naturally.

There is a certain poetic quality to the story, and it is so implausible in so many places that I'm not even sure it aims for suspension of disbelief in the audience. I don't think Pete Docter really cared if we bought all the details, because the characters are engaging enough--and make their points sincerely enough--that the details don't really matter.

Now, as for the 3D... I'm not a big fan of 3D. I've seen a couple of 3D animated movies now (the first was CORALINE), and while I admit that the technology works quite well now, it can be distracting and even headache-inducing if it isn't implemented properly. That said, UP showed me that it is at least possible to implement 3D intelligently.

The production logos at the opening of the movie show a small but fascinating contrast between "good" and "bad" 3D. Disney has rolled out an elaborate new logo with a point of view that travels from high over a river valley to the ground to show that iconic castle. The fireworks shoot, and the "Walt Disney" logo appears in the foreground. Except, in 3D, the logo appears to sit several feet OFF the screen, as if to scream "LOOK! DEPTH!". Cut to the new Pixar sequence, in which the point of view starts out looking down the row of letters in the Pixar name in perspective, beautifully showing depth without pulling them "off the screen". WAAAY less distracting. The 3D creative decisions in UP were similarly intelligent and muted.

UP convinced me that "good" 3D is possible, but it's going to be a long time before filmmakers develop the "language" of 3D.

Reply to: Ebert: I tell a storyy about Gene Siskel. Gene told him: "There is a point when a personal opinion shades off into an error of fact. When you say 'The Valachi Papers' is a better film than 'The Godfather,' you are wrong." Quite true. (From Brainiac blog entry.)

So, yes, "The Godfather" is the Gold Standard. "The Godfather" sets the bar.

Reply to: Ebert: Am I out of touch? It's not a critic's job to reflect box office taste. The job is to describe my reaction to a film, to account for it, and evoke it for others... I never took a film class. There are people who know so much more about film than I do,

I don't think you give yourself enough credit, Roger. Because of your job, I think you've sat through more movies that you dislike than anyone else on the planet. The challenge of being a studio exec is making a decision based on insufficient information. If a writer comes in to pitch an idea, how do you decide whether to offer him a contract? If you read a script, how do you know a director won't ruin it?

imdb trivia: The studio thought her sexy image would lend itself to playing femme fatales in dramas. However, Monroe's dramatic acting was not her strong suit, and her serious roles produced unintended laughter from audiences. As a result, Monroe was re-imagined as a comedic actress, with much success. (Review of Niagara, 1953)

Reply to: When I first tried to introduce my dad to Mystery Science Theater 3000, he said it reminded him of his college days in the early 60's, when students went to watch a movie at the student union. No one cared much what was playing, they just went to take a break from studies. If the movie turned out to be something pretty bad, people would start making fun of it out loud.

I think this could turn into a great scene, and "Godfather IV" needs a lot of great scenes.

Marilyn goes to Johnny Fontaine for sympathy. She went to a premiere of her new movie, and people were laughing at her big dramatic moments. That night Johnny and Marilyn go in after the midnight show starts, and take seats in the very back row of a huge Chicago theater.

Like "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," audience members get up from their seats to make fun of the dialogue.

Johnny goes to the pit and joins in the fun. Almost instantly, they realize "That's Johnny Fontaine." (ie, what is Frank Sinatra doing at a midnight showing in Chicago?) Johnny picks out a lady from the audience at random. She's wearing glasses and is rather plain. He sings a love song to her, the same one Marilyn sings on screen. He turns it into a duet, and he pours his heart into it, trying to make the audience believe he has truly fallen for this random woman sitting in the front row. He has to skip over a few lyrics to fit into the places where Marilyn pauses...

That old black magic has me in its spell,
that old black magic that you weave so well.

every time you smile at me...

down and down I go, round and round I go,
In a spin, loving the spin I'm in,
under that old black magic called love.

Then Marilyn joins Johnny and they perform a dance routine. Same one he did with Gene Kelly in a movie, only Marilyn takes Gene's part.

The audience gives them a round of applause, and the manager of the theater escorts Johnny and Marilyn out the back door, saying the audience wants to finish watching the movie.

The lady sitting in the front row is the City Editor of the Chicago Tribune. She leaves the theater and goes straight to her office.

The next morning, the hotel delivers a copy of the Trib when room service brings breakfast on a cart for Johnny and his wife.

A banner headline says "The night I fell in love with Johnny Fontaine."

The City Editor still knows how to write a story.

The next day, a florist delivers three dozen red roses to the City Editor, and for the next week, the headlines read "Chicago LOVES Johnny Fontaine."

Reply to: Ebert: A critic's job... is to describe my reaction, to account for it, and evoke it for others...

And the screenwriter's job is to manipulate the audience's emotional response, so as the end credits roll, they feel... elated. Satisfied. Happy. Sad. Whatever the emotion, it was real to them. When the audience in the Chicago theater laugh at Marilyn's dramatic scene, we feel her pain. And when Johnny rescues her by bringing her to the front of the theatre, we feel the elation.

And when Marilyn's body is found, we cry.

Trivia: There are 61 scenes in "The Godfather" that show people eating/drinking, or just food.

More Trivia: Paramount executive Peter Bart bought the film rights to "The Godfather" before it was finished. Mario Puzo's editor sent him a 20-page outline.(end)

It's hard for me to imagine "Godfather IV" without Jack Woltz.

imdb: During rehearsals, a false horse's head was used for the bedroom scene. For the actual shot, a real horse's head was used, acquired from a dog-food factory. According to John Marley, his scream of horror was real as he was not informed that a real head was going to be used.

Johnny Fontaine wins the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in a movie made by Woltz's studio. The picture also wins Best Picture. A chance to show both of them at the Academy Awards in 1947, with other famous actresses who despise Woltz in attendance.

And Jack Woltz is the key to moving the action to Chicago. As soon as he wakes up and finds Khartoum's head in his bed, he realizes he can't fight the Corleone crime family by himself. He flies to Chicago and has a meeting with a Chicago crime family. We see the difference between Vito Corleone's group and "how they do it in Chicago." And that leads us straight into the JFK assassination. In between, we learn how movie studios worked in the 1950's.

And we need a great role for Tom Hanks. What IF... he gets a TV Western that showcases his comic talents? Like "Bonanza," "Gunsmoke," "Have Gun, Will Travel" "Wagon Train" and "Rawhide," the show needs a gimmick.

The hero uses a whip. So the show is called


WHIPLASH is the story of the richest silver mine in Carson City, Nevada.

SITE: By 1851, Eagle Valley had been settled by ranchers. A few years later

a cadre of well-connected attorneys whose names still decorate street signs here (Proctor, Musser) bought the richest part of the valley for $500 and a remuda of horses.

In the spring of the next year, to their astonishment and delight, the Comstock Lode was discovered.... Mining operations in Nevada were forced to carry the unrefined bullion on mules or in wagons over snow-covered, difficult mountain terrain, through dangerous outlaw and Indian territory. The nearest mint facility to convert bullion into coins was hundreds of miles away in San Francisco. (end)

The comedian played by Tom Hanks.... takes a job doing a TV series. His character is one of the lawyers who bought a valley in Nevada and got very, very rich when they discoverid silver. He hires a team of gunslingers to protect his shipments....

... and meets a trick-shot artist by the name of Annie Oakley (played by the wife of Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson.)

The lawyer is afraid of guns, but he practices with a bullwhip because he thinks it's cool. In the TV show, Annie Oakley is a bit too much for him... so, "Whiplash" has some aspects of "Maverick" as well as "Moonlighting," except the female lead gets into gunfights and kills a lot of people.

That's what Hanks and Johnny Fontaine are doing when JFK is killed. They're in front of the camera, clowning around... making jokes about Camelot.

TRIVIA: Coppola turned in an initial director's cut running 126 minutes. Paramount production chief Robert Evans rejected this version and demanded a longer cut with more scenes about the family. The final release version was nearly 50 minutes longer than Coppola's initial cut.

More scenes that establish how the mob worked in Chicago, on a personal basis. What kind of home life did mobsters have? How was it different from the Corleone family?

In "Star Wars," we saw Darth Vader argue with Peter Cushing, and choke an Imperial officer, saying, "I find your lack of faith disturbing." Jack Woltz should have the same kind of tension when he visits Al Capone, or whoever was in power in 1945. He's afraid of the Chicago mob, but he's more afraid of the Corleones. The Chicago family wants half of his studio, but they're willing to invest a lot of money as well as provide protection. They talk about drugs. They talk about Marilyn Monroe. They talk about suits and hats and Saville Row tailors in London. The Chicago guys think this wealthy movie producer is, like, a genius, and they really want to go into business with him. They talk about politics and possible candidates for President.

The Chicago mob has to be scary - really scary - or the audience won't believe they would really put out a contract on the President of the United States.

I remember "The Godfather" having much humor, but that's important in today's market. In order to make the villain three-dimensional, he has a sense of humor like Heath Ledger's Joker. If you don't like the "Whiplash" TV show, Tom Hanks could play the head of the Chicago family. If Marlon Brando can get away with playing an Italian-American, then Hanks can do Chicago. Show that Johnny Fontaine had a home life, close friends, and children as well as a career.

I don't think Michael Bay will ever get within 100 years of a "Godfather" movie set. What would it take to make another "Godfather" movie? If "Transformers" and "Land of the Lost" have returned, why not the mob?

Speaking of the mob, are these the greatest villains ever? It has some of the "Titanic" charm, knowing these guys were real. We'll come back to Jimmy Hoffa.

Let's start with the 1960 election that JFK won by 300 to 219 votes in the Electoral College. JFK's father, Joe Kennedy, knew it would be a close race. Illinois was going to be a key state. According to "The Dark Side of Camelot," Joe Kennedy went to a judge, and asked him to set up a meeting with Sam Giancana. A few weeks later, Sam aka Sam Flood walked into the courtroom about 5:00 in the afternoon, when few people were around, and met with Kennedy in the judge's chambers. Promises were exchanged.

As a teenager, Giancana was a hit man for Al Capone. By his 20th birthday, he had murdered dozens of men. He was a killer, and proud of it. Mob guys needed a "Rep" and killer was Giancana's. At the slightest provocation, he would curse and scream "Hit him. Hit him." In 1960 Sam had a romance with Phyllis McGuire of "The McGuire Sisters." (reminds me a bit of The Jonas Brothers, for some reason.)

After his meeting with Kennedy, Sam called a meeting with Chicago mob guys Murray "The Camel" Humphreys, Tony Accardo, Paul Ricca and Frank Ferraro.

Humphreys didn't want to support JFK. Humphreys said Kennedy would double-cross them, and he turned out to be right.

History: After winning the gang wars, in 1934 Frank Nitti consolidated what was left into one organization with total control of organized crime in Chicago, known as the Outfit. Jake Guzik and Murray Humphries led the expansion into labor racketeering and gambling. Paul "the Waiter" Ricca, Tony "Joe Batters" Accardo, Claude "Screwy" Maddox and "Tough Tony" Capezio, all alumni of the Circus Gang...

Rocco "Mr. Big" DeGrazia was the boss of Melrose Park,

During the Accardo years, the Outfit widely levied the "street tax" on various criminal activities in Chicago. Criminals that didn't belong to the Outfit paid, rather than have obliging politicians order the police to shut them down. The tax was placed on organized criminal activities, such as gambling in the Chinatown community...

The Outfit’s biggest moves in the 1950s concerned casino gambling outside of Chicago, first in hotel casinos in user friendly Havana, Cuba. Beginning with the Stardust, by 1961 Chicago had major interests in the Riviera, the Fremont and the Desert Inn. Their Vegas holdings, partly in cooperation with Moe Dalitz, were overseen by John Roselli, while the submissive Teamsters Central States’ Pension Fund provided financing.

A new activity for organized crime during the late 1960s was the "chop shop." This racket, centered in the South suburbs, was first subject to the street tax, with the Outfit later taking direct control of it.

John F. Kennedy won Illinois by about 9,000 votes, and without such mob strongholds as Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, Texas and New Jersey, Nixon would have won in 1960. The popular vote was almost a dead heat - Kennedy had a 112,000-vote margin. It was the closest election since 1884. Giancana, of course, was expecting the fix he paid for. The younger Kennedys had laid a lot of heat on the mob during the McClellan hearings, and old Joe's deal was that the heat was off.

In 1960 Giancana's Chicago outfit was said to gross $2 billion a year - that's something like $12 billion in today's money. By 1966, Marcello's dope, gambling, prostitution, extortion and theft empire was the largest conglomerate in Louisiana.

Kennedy thought he could reverse the political damage suffered at the Bay of Pigs by actually taking Cuba. He asked Air Force Maj. Gen. Edward Lansdale to devise the attack.

In October of 1960 at the Miami Fontainebleau, Johnny Rosselli, Santos Trafficante, Sam Giancana, Jim O'Connell and Robert Maheu had their first operational meeting to plan Castro's death. Maheu was a former FBI intelligence expert who transferred to the CIA. During World War II, Maheu worked in the FBI's Chicago office

under the man who would later run Lee Harvey Oswald, Guy Bannister,,,

Rosselli had refused to accept the Castro contract until he met face-to-face with the CIA. "The plan" was to be executed by the "Executive Action" unit, code-named ZR/RIFLE.

Helms told Senator Church's 1975 Senate Intelligence Committee that he had approved the mob assassination operation without the knowledge or approval of Kennedy or his CIA director McCone. Despite the pro-forma "deniability" for the superiors, Helms admitted, in sworn testimony, organizing the CIA/hood assassination (end)

One of the major questions is, was Kennedy assassinated by Cuban forces protecting Castro, or mob forces angry that JFK hadn't honored their deal with his father, Joe Kennedy?

However, when you look at Jack Ruby's hurried act of silencing Oswald, the answer becomes obvious. There's no way Fidel Castro's protection squad could have motivated Jack Ruby to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Robert Kennedy is trying to put Jimmy Hoffa in prison for stealing union pension funds, at the same time the CIA sits down with the Outfit at a Miami hotel.

In order to explain the JFK assassination, in order to make the audience feel it, you've got to introduce men who have committed murder all their lives. Men who base their self-image on being cold-blooded killers. Those are the men that the CIA decided to hire to kill Fidel Castro.

Here's an interesting scenario: the best minds in the CIA planned to kill Castro while he was riding in a motorcade. Oswald bought a rifle from a mail order house that would be left behind as the assassin's weapon. And the Outfit simply used the CIA's plan to kill Kennedy, including the rifle.

An interesting twist would be (and I'm not saying this happened in real life) the original order to kill Kennedy came from Jimmy Hoffa. And Robert Kennedy was the one who made Hoffa disappear. It took him a while, but RFK actually found the man responsible for killing his brother and disposed of him. RFK felt he couldn't arrest Giancana, because at a trial, his meeting with Joe Kennedy would be part of his defense.

One possibility is, the CIA planned to use Lee Harvey Oswald as "the man who killed Castro," and went to great lengths to put him in contact with Soviet officials known for political assassinations, to plant a false trail.

Anyway, that's what would have come out, if the American government had gone after all the men responsible for JFK's murder. I think Johnny Fontaine should be the Key Man, the man who volunteers to go in front of a Grand Jury and name names. Because he thinks someone needs to step up and stop the bad guys, and no elected official seemed ready to do that.

I feel like 3D may be another gimmick, lick color was in the earlyand mid thirties, to pass off mediocre filmmaking as something new and exciting. I think of Dixieana's color reel and the proposed but abandoned color number in Astaire and Rogers' "Carefree". Like color was, 3D is an extra draw that separated "Journey to the Center of the Earth" from every other Brendan Fraser exploration flick (did they re-use the costumes?). As they say in Gypsy, "you gotta get a gimmick!"

LA TIMES: "Bruno" sold a studio-estimated $14.2 million Friday. Universal Studios paid financier Media Rights Capital $42.5 million for rights to distribute the film. "Public Enemies" dropped 57% Friday to $4.4 million... with Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, a $100-million-plus budget and a $40.1 million start in its first five days... (end)

UP wasn't mentioned. Nobody seems very enthusiastic about the fate of John Dillinger, even with Johnny Depp's star power.

Godfather IV: The Ending

Let me say up front that I don't have the right ending yet. I have some ideas. For example,

The ending of "The Godfather" made us happy, because we had been waiting for it... well, ever since Sonny was killed. When Mike went to Sicily, it seemed impossible.

So, that kind of ending. An ending where Johnny Fontaine has to embrace the thing he's been avoiding all his life. ie, he has to admit that using the Corleone crime family to advance his career wasn't honest or ethical.

(Version A) A week after the Kennedy Assassination, President Lyndon Johnson goes on television for the first time. However, instead of the White House, it's a live broadcast from the top floor of the Everett McKinley Dirksen Federal Courthouse in downtown Chicago.

A grand jury has been impaneled, and Johnny Fontaine takes the witness stand. He tells an interesting story. Johnny claims that JFK asked him for advice on how to kill Fidel Castro. Johnny had been to Havana a few times, to sing at the casinos, and... Johnny claims it was HIS idea to have a gunman shoot Castro while riding in a motorcade. Then, have a Cuban who was a millionaire before Castro took over, and lost everything when he fled to the United States, claim to be responsible.

Johnny Fontaine explains all the details of the Kennedy assassination. He has charts showing the trajectory of the bullets. He has photos of Chuckie Nicoretti and his driver, and he holds up a Remington XP-100. A baliff fires it to show how the gas is still burning as it leaves the barrel.

During some of his testimony, Johnny lies. He claims first-hand knowledge of things he only heard about later. His goal is to convince the Outfit that Sam Giancara has been bragging about his role in the Kennedy Assassination to anyone who will listen. President Johnson is hoping the Outfit will find a way to kill Giancara before he testifies about fixing the election after making a deal with Joe Kennedy, JFK's Dad.

Johnny makes a clear connection between all of the murders committed by the Outfit in Chicago since Prohibition, and the death of a President. By allowing the Crime families to operate, the United States left the door open for a great tragedy. It's not too late to fix it. (end)

The movie needs to be character-driven, especially at the end. Who is Johnny Fontaine? Why was America fascinated by Frank Sinatra? Giancana financed and secretly owned part of Sinatra's hotel and casino in Reno. Testifying against Giancana would expose Sinatra to numerous criminal charges and financial ruin. He would need a blanket immunity agreement up front.;_id=1583&category;_id=228

LINK: In 1938, a 23-year-old Sinatra was arrested by the Bergen County Sheriff's Office in Hackensack, New Jersey: 'On the second and ninth days of November 1938 at the Borough of Lodi' and 'under the promise of marriage' Sinatra 'did then and there have sexual intercourse with the said complainant, who was then and there a single female of good repute.' The report noted the complaint was withdrawn when it was determined that the woman involved was married. (end)

Vito Corleone: I refused to be a fool dancing on the strings held by all of those big shots. That's my life, I don't apologize for that. But I always thought that when it was your time that you would be the one to hold the strings. - "The Godfather"

When FBI agents come to arrest Sam Giancana, he stands on his sofa and screams at his TV set, "You're a dead man, Fontaine. No matter where you do, you're dead." Whatever dignity we thought he had as a Godfather from Chicago, take it away from him.

The Everett McKinley Dirksen Federal Courthouse at 219 S. Dearborn Street was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and completed in 1964. The building houses the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois,

A brand new federal building in 1964? Perfect.

Sam is brought into the courtroom for arraignment, under tight security, and the Outfit gets to him. Maybe the thugs sneak into the room directly below the courtroom and attach a bomb to the ceiling. Sam pleads "Not Guilty" and blows up.

(Version B) Lyndon Johnson uses Fontaine's testimony as an excuse to send American troops in Cuba. Lots of them. And the Soviets pull their 15,000 "advisors" out because they know Johnson isn't kidding.

(Version C) Johnny Fontaine and family attend the funeral of Vito Corleone.

Neither version strikes me as "exactly right." But the ending needs to accomplish the same result as the original "Godfather." We feel that the world has gone through a great upheaval, and now, thanks to the title character, it has been set right again. Order has been restored. The Bad Guys have been eliminated.

Most of all, the "father figure" has made a great sacrifice, given up his own plans in order to protect the safety of his children and relatives.

Russell is, in fact, Asian-American and not Native American. The character was based on Pixar animator Peter Sohn, who is Korean-American. Director Pete Docter mentions this fact in">this interview.

Here is a photograph of Peter Sohn -- Russell looks a lot like him.

The "sweat lodge" in the movie is some sort of subdivision of the Wildnerness Explorer Scouts. That reminded me of the YMCA Indian Guide program (now known as the Adventure Guide progam).

There are several points where a movie can lose its' audience. (1) When a "based on a true story" movie crosses the line into fiction, and (2) when the rules of science are violated.

The size of Muntz' airship, for example. When a mining ship emerges from an artificial black hole.

In "The Hurt Locker," we strongly suspect that an "adrenaline junkie" would not be allowed to re-up for a bomb disposal unit. Release of adrenal medullary catecholamines is caused by stressful stimuli, acting via the sympathetic nervous system in the so-called fight or flight response to stress; heart rate and force are increased, blood pressure rises, and blood flow to the skeletal and cardiac muscles is increased, while blood flow to the less essential areas (e.g. gut, skin) is decreased.

If "War is a drug," it's based on adrenaline. You think it's excitement, danger and challenge, but actually it's a physical addiction to the neurotransmitters released during stress.

(1) "Godfather IV" - One possibility I've toyed with is moving the assassination to Chicago.

Once you've told the audience that Fontaine got his role because of a horse's head, they should know that it's not a 100% factual account. Moving the motorcade from Dallas to Chicago would make it clearer that "Godfather IV" takes place in an alternate reality.

In our reality, however, there was a plot to kill JFK in Chicago, two weeks prior to Dallas.

SITE: Winning the state of Illinois would be essential to JFK's re-election. Kennedy was due to arrive in Chicago the morning of Saturday, November 2 to attend the Army-Air Force football game at Soldier Field and ride in a parade. Two sections were reserved. One on the Air Force side. A second on the Army side. The President was scheduled to change sides during half time. Newspapers had printed JFK's detailed travel plan from O'Hare to the Loop.

What happened? The manager of a motel called the FBI, to report a threat she had seen in a room rented by two Cuban nationals.

"Caller had seen several automatic rifles with telescopic sights on a motel bed, with an outline of the route that President Kennedy was supposed to take in Chicago that would bring him past that building," according to former Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden. "No one was sent to the room to fingerprint it or get an I.D. The case was lost and that was the end of it." The two suspected Cuban hitmen disappeared and were never identified.

Conspiracy buffs think they know where the Chicago assassination would have happened. A man with possible CIA connections (he was a Marine at the same military base in Japan as Oswald, where the CIA ran a U2 spy plane fueling depot)... Thomas Vallee found employment at IPP Litho-Plate, located at 625 West Jackson Boulevard in Chicago.

...the view from 625 West Jackson:

"From its roof I could look down and over to where JFK's presidential limousine had been scheduled to make a slow turn up from the Northwest Expressway (today ironically the Kennedy Expressway) exit ramp onto West Jackson. It was strangely similar to the slow curve in front of the Texas School Book Depository. Vallee's location actually gave him a nearer, clearer view of the November 2 Chicago motorcade... (JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters)

(2) The plan to assassinate Fidel Castro.

Castro lived under round-the-clock security in Havana, but on weekends, he would drive to a house he owned in the beach resort of Varadero on the northern shore of Cuba, 75 miles away. An assassination attempt was planned for December 1.

(3) I think we know the mechanics of how the assassination on JFK happened. The Zapruder film shows Kennedy holding his throat, and the autopsy showed a throat wound which was described as an "entry wound." Were there two shots by different gunmen from the grassy knoll? Or, was the throat wound actually an exit wound? Was it caused by a piece of shrapnel from a bullet that hit the windshield?

What we don't know are the identities of the men who fired the shots. By several reports, there were two men on the sixth floor of the Book Depository, a gunman and a spotter.

Yes, James Files has claimed he fired a Remington XP-100 from the grassy knoll, but that could simply be based on personal knowledge he obtained from the actual gunman. It seems like a "mob thing" to claim to be the gunman in unsolved crimes. Were there two unrelated plots in Dallas, one involving Cuban nationals trying to protect the life of Fidel Castro? Our best information suggests there were only two gunshots from the Book Depository, and a third shot from the Dallas Textile Mart next door.

For the movie, it should be clear that Johnny Fontaine had met and knew the gunmen. They were all connected to the Chicago mobster who financed his hotel and casino in Reno. Johnny can't say "They're my family, Kay, but they're not me." Johnny isn't related to the Chicago mob. He works for them, first as an entertainer in the nightclubs owned by the mob in Chicago before he made a movie with Gene Kelly, and later as a partner in a casino.

For the movie, show what would have happened if senior officials of the CIA had to testify in open court about their plans to assassinate Castro. Would it have started World War III? That's doubtful. It would have shown that JFK was prepared to violate an agreement that ended the Cuban Missile Crisis, but there are dozens of plans discussed behind closed doors that never are put in motion.

Every so often, I see an All-Time Greatest Movie Villains list. Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter and Heath Ledger's The Joker occupy the top spots.

The villain in "Godfather IV: The Johnny Fontaine Story":

(1) Runs the Outfit out of Chicago

(2) Has a really cool nickname like "The Typewriter." As in, "He got hit by The Typewriter."

(3) Kills an American President.

(4) Partied with Marilyn Monroe at Fontaine's Reno casino the weekend before she died.

So, how do you make the son of immigrants from Sicily as popular as a Sith Lord?

When Johnny Fontaine's son is kidnapped, he finds the kidnappers and punishes them. And confiscates the ransom because they never paid the "tax."

There could be a comic side to his personality, in the way he reacts to every situation by saying "We're gonna take that guy out" and then lets himself be talked out of it by his subordinates.

Is he as cool as Hannibal Lecter? Would we want to see another movie with his name in the title?

When Marilyn is found dead, he's just as upset as Johnny Fontaine. Only, he does something about it. He has Marilyn's doctor brought in for a meeting, and gets the real story out of him.

"Marilyn Monroe" was a stage name used by Norma Jeane Mortenson. (She believed her father was named Charles Stanley Gifford, but "Edward Mortenson" appears on her birth certificate.) I wish there was a way to use "Marilyn Monroe" in "Godfather IV.'

What makes a great villain? He not only stands in the way of the hero achieving his greatest desire, but he also does things. He's not passive. In "Silence of the Lambs," we cared more about Hannibal gaining his freedom than catching Buffalo Bill.

There must be some "urban legends" about the Outfit in Chicago that could add some personality to the mob guys. Did Tony ever call himself a Godfather? Does Vito Corleone acknowledge Tony as an equal?

Both "Star Trek" and "Transformers 2" were written by the same duo, Kurtzman and Orci. Both movies have the same flaws. A linear plot. A follows B follows C, with no surprises or mysteries. No plot twist that takes us into an unexpected realm. When Kirk lands on a frozen planet, of course Leonard Nimoy is waiting for him.

An interesting area could be the treatment of marriage. After getting advice from Vito Corleone, Johnny Fontaine goes back to his wife. Everyone in Johnny's life wants him to loosen up and have some fun. Marilyn Monroe, John F. Kennedy, the Godfather from Chicago, Angie Dickinson, Ava Gardner, they all think Johnny could do better than his wife. Show that Johnny is tempted, but he actually respects a promise he made to his Godfather to "act like a man." And then, Marilyn dies, and he starts to have doubts. When "The Typewriter" has Marilyn's doctor stuffed into a 55-gallon drum, Johnny has more doubts.

Like Marilyn, Johnny has a lot of ambition. He wants to be a movie star. With the mob in control of Vegas and part-owners of some of the studios (including Woltz International) Johnny becomes friends with "The Typewriter."

When Johnny Fontaine goes on TV and names the men responsible for Kennedy's death, "The Typewriter" disappears. One minute, he's the most powerful mob boss in Chicago. But when the heat from the Kennedy assassination starts, he knows his reign is over, and he gets on a plane to Brazil where he can use a different name and start over. Many of us have moments when our lives change. I was just reading a book by a man who used to enjoy snowboarding. He went out for an adventure, got trapped, got water inside his boots, and his feet "froze" before he got back to civilization. For two days, the local hospital gave him a "wait and see" treatment. Then, when they realized the damage was more serious than it looked, they sent him to a clinic that specializes in burn and hypothermia. Put him in a chamber with oxygen under high pressure. Tried everything, but the veins in his feet were too damaged to carry blood and gangrene set in. One day, he started getting sick, and the doctors announced they would have to amputate his feet before the dead tissue killed him.

One stupid action, and you wind up losing your feet. That's the kind of life-changing moment that the Godfather of Chicago, the head of the Outfit, "The Typewriter," should go through. Maybe they cut his vocal cords so he literally can't talk, before he goes before a Senate committee.

At the end, the hero, Johnny Fontaine, makes the most difficult decision of his life, and looking back, we all agree it was the right one. Tell the American public the truth about the Kennedy assassination, including the possibility that the CIA was about to kill Fidel Castro in exactly the same way that JFK died.

Reply to: Ebert: If a movie finds an underlying truth, I'm permissive about the means it takes to get there. Perfect factual accuracy is elusive and even distracting.

The truth about the JFK assassination is, the feds were doing everything they could to stop organized crime. Every time they put a major Mafia leader in jail, they ran the risk of "Sicilian revenge." They were dealing with men who had a history of blood feuds going back centuries. Killing your enemy was considered a rite of passage to become "a man," not a coward. Johnny says, "The people who aren't criminals have a right to protect themselves. It's called the Law, and you can't kill the people who try to enforce the law."

In the original "The Godfather," we never saw a legitimate authority figure except Don Corleone. In "Godfather IV," we would have John and Robert Kennedy. And John dies. He's shot by three mob guys who ambushed him, just like the Old West.

I found this while researching Tony Accardo's "black onyx bathtub" which was described as his "unofficial command post" for running the Outfit.

June 8, 2005: Ready to see where the Outfit bosses lived? Tickets for the Oak Park-River Forest Historical Society's two-hour trolley tour past homes of known members of Chicago organized crime are on sale.

Three of Tony "The Big Tuna" Accardo's four former homes will be... The current owners of the 22-room Tudor mansion at 915 Franklin Ave. in River Forest, who wish to remain anonymous, recently completed a three-year renovation of the home.... which has never before been open to the public before..

The 24,000-square-foot mansion was built in 1929 by flamboyant radio pioneer William Grunow. It was home to Accardo from 1953-61 and was the site of many mob gatherings. Among its lavish features are a regulation-size bowling alley, an English pub with beamed ceiling and seating for 50, and a natorium with blue-glazed Mexican tiles containing a spectacular indoor swimming pool. And that's just the basement.

Sam Giancana's house where the onetime mob boss was found dead in the basement with multiple gunshot wounds... Neighbors probably knew when they had mobsters living next to them, but "it was a don't ask, don't tell" situation. (end)

Filming part of "Godfather IV" at the actual mansion where Tony Accardo lived would be great.

SITE: According to his tax returns, Tony Accardo was employed by Premium Beer Sales, and earned $ 42,862.25 in 1956. He deducted $3,994 in depreciation and gas-and-oil expenses for his little red sports car, a Mercedes-Benz SL 300, as business expenses "incurred while promoting beer sales."

It would be interesting to reveal the "real" reason JFK was assassinated. Was there a young associate of Giancara who was sentenced to life in prison for a kidnapping? A federal crime?

From a biography of Robert Strange McNamara:

Kennedy’s first order to Mr. McNamara after the invasion of Cuba collapsed was to develop a proposal for overthrowing the Castro government with American military force. Ten days later, he submitted a plan of attack that included 60,000 American troops, excluding naval and air forces. The plan proved impossible to fulfill.

At the height of the missile crisis, on Oct. 27, 1962, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended that Cuba be invaded within 36 hours. As the secret White House taping system installed by Kennedy recorded his words, Mr. McNamara laid out the prospects for war.
“The military plan is basically invasion,” he said. “When we attack Cuba, we are going to have to attack with an all-out attack. The Soviet Union may, and, I think, probably will, attack the Turkish missiles.” The United States would then have to attack Soviet ships or bases in the Black Sea. The chances of an uncontrolled escalation were high.

“And I would say that it is damn dangerous. I’m not sure we can avoid anything like that if we attack Cuba. But I think we should make every effort to avoid it. And one way to avoid it is to defuse the Turkish missiles before we attack Cuba.”

McNamara's idea — a secret deal in which Kennedy offered to withdraw his missiles in Turkey if Khrushchev removed his warheads from Cuba — resolved the crisis. “In the end, we lucked out — it was luck that prevented nuclear war,” Mr. McNamara said in “The Fog of War,” 40 years after the fact. (end)

So there was a real plan to invade Cuba with American troops being discussed... The story behind "Godfather IV" is people in the CIA were stupid enough to involve the Chicago Outfit in a plot to assassinate Castro at the same time that Bobby Kennedy was actively going after Outfit members on federal charges. Giancana and Accardo, somebody in the Outfit, decided to use the CIA's plan of shooting Castro while driving to his beach house, only make Kennedy the target. And make it LOOK like Castro's people were behind it. Two Cubans working for the Outfit went to Chicago and allowed their rifles to be seen by a hotel manager, who reported it to the FBI. OK, switch that to a motel room in Dallas, and then have the assassination take place in Chicago. And when Fontaine gives testimony to the Grand Jury, the world of Tony Accardo collapses.

FBI agents serve a search warrant on Accardo's mansion in River Forest, Illinois. They find evidence of an old murder in the basement and Accardo is convicted of several murders. Coppola had to rent a Long Island estate for the Corleone's compound, but it would be so much better to use the real house where Accardo lived. Because "that's how we do it in Chicago."

3D is truly not an issue with UP. I saw it in 2D. I thought the first ten minutes alone were worth the price of admission. It was a complete story of a lifetime love affair and quite touching. Late in the film, when Carl finally looks at the final pages of his late wife's "adventure" book and sees the final inscription she left him...well, it just made this into so much more than a children's film. It was a story of love, shared dreams, and the reality which makes each of our lives into a different, but meaningful, adventure.

My four year old and I went to see Up yesterday. I can't remember ever being touched by an animated movie like that - and I am a sucker for Disney style melodrama. The begining sequence of Carl and Ellie meeting, marrying, growing up and old together, and going through all of those amazing life events with each other was incredible. Then when that sequence is harkened to later in the film, I found myself crying anew.
My son was on the edge of his seat (quite literally), the entire time. While he took away a different view of the movie than I, he definitely loved it. He told me that 'Mr. Frederickson sure loved his wife Ellie'- so he did get a fair bit of the major message in the movie- which I would have thought to be over his head, life-experience wise.
We saw the movie in 3D- which I enjoyed as being a novel experience, and am glad that I did- but I think perhaps we will watch it again next weekend in plain old fashioned 2D. The 3D was well used, and very enjoyable, but the colors were a bit washed out. Plus, I couldn't wear my glasses (wish I'd thought about it, and worn contacts to the movie) so, I know that I missed some of the picture.
Great fun, and, as always, love Mr. Ebert's take on the movie and life.

Which brings me to one slight annoyance having nothing to do with the movie. I always enjoy reading Mr. Ebert's blogs and tend to love reading the lively and intelligent discussion that follows- even when that discussion is somewhat tangential. However, I find that in this discussion, there is one individual who has high-jacked it, and is conducting a one sided debate with himself. While this individual's writings are somewhat interesting, i would much prefer it if they were moved into his OWN blog. They seem somewhat inappropriate here.

Consider... The fictional town of Purgatory, Nevada

TIME: The TV western is really the American morality play, in which Good and Evil, Spirit and Nature, Christian and Pagan fight to the finish on the vast stage of the unbroken prairie. The immortal theme of every hero myth: man's endless search for the meaning of his life.

If Johnny Fontaine is the titular hero, what answers does he come up with in a search for meaning in his life?

Johnny Fontaine loves being on stage and performing for a crowd. He loves "being connected" and knowing that, even if he's only 5'7", he can snap his fingers and have your legs broken.

Johnny's on a Power trip. When Kennedy dies, he knows he can lose all of it if he goes to the feds, but he also finds something he didn't know he had: a conscience.

In 1959, the three networks had 26 Westerns in prime-time. Eight of the top ten shows were Westerns. And they stuck around long enough to make friends.

Continuing Series
1. Gunsmoke (1955-75)
2. Maverick (1957-62)
3. Rawhide (1959-66) (Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Yates)
4. Bonanza (1959-73)
5. Have Gun, Will Travel (1957-63)
6. The Rifleman (1958-63)
7. Wagon Train (1957-65)
8. Death Valley Days (1952-70)
9. The Virginian (1962-70)
10. Cheyenne (1955-63)
11. Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958-61)
12. The Lone Ranger (1949-57)

I don't think the audience will be able to understand the cultural setting of "The Godfather" without exploring the TV Western. Every police officer and FBI agent secretly wanted to be Matt Dillon, a 6'7" Federal Marshall in Dodge City.

James Arness: What made us different from other westerns was the fact that Gunsmoke wasn't just action and a lot of shooting; they were character-study shows. They're interesting to watch all these years later.

How about a Catholic TV Western called "Purgatory"? It combines elements from "One Step Beyond," the British TV series "The Prisoner" "The Twilight Zone" and the old radio program "Inner Sanctum."

Tom Hanks plays the hero, who wakes up in the desert. He isn't quite certain how he got there, but he sees a town in the distance. He walks into the town and the hotel gives him a room. Actually, Hanks plays multiple roles. He's also a rundown drunk with a long grey beard.

The idea is, the town is really Purgatory. Under Catholic rules, when a man dies in a "state of grace" but still has a sinful nature, he is sent to Purgatory for an extended period of punishment. Call it the 'escape clause' for bad men who repent on their death beds.

At various times, people decide to leave Purgatory. They get on a horse and ride through the desert until they fall asleep, and when they wake up, they're back at the same spot where Hanks started, looking at the town of Purgatory from a short distance.

It's a ghost town, literally. Everyone in the town has died and these are their spirits, only they still appear human because the Almighty isn't ready to let them into heaven yet.

There's a saloon like the Long Branch, where Hanks plays poker and roulette, with girls willing to go upstairs with the winners. How can you have Purgatory without a brothel? "Gunsmoke" never made it clear what happened on the second floor, but Tom Hanks could go there and show us.

Does a TV Western like "Purgatory" belong in a Godfather movie? I'm not sure yet. When Mario Puzo wrote "The Godfather," he used stories he'd heard about the Mob and the five families in New York. The residents of Purgatory are mobsters who have been shot, or died, and God isn't ready to let them into heaven until they've been punished for their misdeeds. They have to change into better people, or they will never be able to leave the desert and walk through the Gates of Heaven. Johnny and Tom Hanks play poker or chess with the writers, who are always looking for better way to bring Catholic morality into the stories, or create characters based on real Mob guys from Chicago.

The writers claim that Purgatory is also based on the casino Johnny Fontaine owns in Reno, Nevada. The main lobby is on the border between California and Nevada. Famous people show up, do a few shows, and disappear.

SITE: Every week, Inner Sanctum Mysteries told stories of ghosts, murderers and lunatics. Produced in New York, the cast usually consisted of veteran radio actors, with occasional guest appearances by such Hollywood stars Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Claude Rains.

Its host was a slightly-sinister sounding man originally known as “Raymond.” The host had a droll sense of humor and an appetite for ghoulish puns, and his influence can be seen among horror hosts everywhere, from the Crypt-Keeper to Elvira.

One of the emotions that radio did best was stark raving terror. Horror radio shows took the darkened night and solitary listener as a willing companion on an unknown journey of fear, terror and dread. Tales of horror recreated by great actors, a spooky organ and chilling sound effects presented by a creepy, rib-tickling host, was a strange brew indeed. Inner Sanctum did it in spades! To this day the show remains a wonderful "guilty" pleasure of many old time radio fans, who listened back then when these shows first fired the imaginations of all but the most jaded. (end)

Do Catholics have a clear idea of what Purgatory is? Maybe "Purgatory" was the radio show that came on after "The Johnny Fontaine Show" and Tom Hanks was the host. And that's how Johnny Fontaine met his Jerry Lewis. The droll comedian who made bad puns to relieve tension, and ten years later turned "Purgatory" into a ground-breaking psychological TV Western.

I've checked several Godfather Fan Sites, and fans want to see one more movie in the franchise. After Mario Puzo died, Random House received permission to continue the Godfather story... with a new novel, titled "The Godfather Returns."

Jonathan Karp was Puzo's editor at Random House, and he was involved in the search for a new writer to create the sequel...

The Story Behind the Sequel
by Jonathan Karp

"Mario once told me he wished he had done more with Sonny Corleone's character, and there was certainly more opportunity to explore the singer Johnny Fontaine."

Throughout the decade I was Mario Puzo's editor, I would periodically beg him to write a sequel to The Godfather. "Bring back the Corleones!" I would plead. "Whatever happened to Johnny Fontane? Can't you do something with Tom Hagen? Don't you think Michael has some unfinished business?"

Mario was always polite in the face of my wheedling and his response was always the same: No.

I understood why Mario never wanted to continue the story. He was a gambler at heart, and resurrecting The Godfather would have been a bad percentage move for him. It was bound to pale in comparison to the original. How do you improve on a legend? (end)(From Amazon's page for the novel "The Godfather Returns".)

So, a flashback that shows the relationship between a young Sonny and Johnny Fontaine. How did Sinatra first meet up with a member of "The Outfit"?

From the 2ThumbsUp entry:

Reply to: Ebert: With Harry Potter...remember the delight in the earlier installments? Now the sense of wonder seems to be leaking out.

The same "sense of wonder and exploration" made the first "Godfather" a success. How did a mob family work? The idea that a "Godfather" was entitled to respect, and tried to protect his sons from centuries of Sicilian blood feuds...

In "The Johnny Fontaine Story," there's an incredible "sense of wonder." Maybe not a night journey to Hogwarts for the first time, but you could certainly take a train from Los Angeles to Reno or Vegas. Or a helicopter from the train station to the casino.

The casinos where Sinatra and his friends played. Not just Sinatra, but Dean Martin and Angie Dickinson and the leggy dancer Juliet Prowse. The extended family known as the Rat Pack. Bogart and Bacall. Marilyn Monroe.

The original "Godfather" was about family. A king has three sons. One dies, one is weak, and the third one assumes the throne when his father dies. A classic, textbook "Myth" with no female characters. Men like "The Godfather" because it's a man's world where you pull out a gun and shoot a police Captain to protect your father's life.

Just saw that Sam Raimi is going to direct the first movie in a new franchise based on the online game "World of Warcraft."

Warner Bros. Pictures Group president Jeff Robinov: “Warcraft” is “emblematic of the kind of branded, event films for which our studio is best known.”

Brand names. Event films. That's what the studio execs worry about. How to earn enough money with one or two films to pay everyone's salary.

That's where you start. You create an event movie that earns more than ten times its' production cost. "Godfather" did it. "Independence Day" did it. So did "Star Wars" and "The Dark Knight." (OK, I have to add DVD and cable sales for TDK, but yeah.) Once you've written, directed or produced a movie that achieves that "x10" figure, you're credible.

I was disappointed by "Half-Blood Prince," for two major reasons. First, not much happened. No catharsis. Second, the relationships were all wrong. Why is Hermione crying when Ron Weasley gets a girlfriend. I mean, come on. Ron Weasley? I just sat there going "No, no, no, that's all wrong."

And my fear is, if anyone else does "Godfather IV," Johnny Fontaine won't capture the essence of Sinatra. The connection to JFK's assassination wil be swept under the rug, and someone will say "The Warren Commission got it exactly right."

The script should create a new family, or extended family, that we can fall in love with, just like Puzo did with the Corleones. Four distinct personalties. Overly-aggressive Sonny lacks common sense. Michael is full of self-doubt and perhaps even self-loathing, enlisted in World War II to find his own identity. Fredo sits and cries after Vito is shot in the market. And, of course, the wise and avuncular Godfather played by Marlon Brando.

Instead, "IV" gives us Johnny Fontaine, a scrawny 5'7" crooner who has enough ambition for five kids. The comedian, played by Tom Hanks, who assumes the role of "father" for the group. Marilyn Monroe. And Dean Martin, probably a good role for James Marsters. An incredibly handsome man who prefers to turn in early and play golf before it gets too hot.

And the Kennedy brothers, John and Robert.

I don't know if this concept is going to work. I don't know if Paramount would buy it. I keep thinking there's only one place to sell it, but that's not true. There's only one place where you can use the brand name "The Godfather". Maybe the story belongs in a different franchise, under a new brand name.

In the next few years, the studios are going to focus on "branded, event movies." Unless you want every big-budget movie to be aimed exclusively at teenage males, with soundtracks featuring Green Day and Linkin Park (who provided some of the worst music for "Transformers 2") .... there's enough great music from the Fifties and Sixties to transport us into a fantasy world for two hours, easy.

Show the connection between the world of Johnny Fontaine, and the Chicago mob world of Sam Giancana and Tony Accardo. In the same way that "The Godfather" showed us how five New York families went to war, and they were all Sicilians.... show how the Outfit in Chicago avoided war by electing a single Godfather, the big Tuna... and by consolidating all the power in one man, allowed him to think it would be all right for him to assassinate the President of the United States.

How much is this worth? For the first script, don't take anything up front. Go for a "Michael Bay" percentage of what the movie earns after the investment is earned back. That's how Jack Nicholson made $40 million from "Batman." A movie like this depends on so many people working together... but first, the script has to be right. The script... has to be genius.

And it takes a lot of work to produce "genius." The magic of discovering a world where cowboys sang and mobsters wound up with their feet in cement...

How about... A 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk that Marilyn Monroe drove. A gift from a Chicago mobster, who he took it back after she died. Make it the most famous movie car in history.

Thank you for posting the entry on "Greatest Movies." I have been trying to find a way to make the script for "Godfather IV" a "Roger Ebert film" rather than a Mario Puzo or Coppola retread. The top two films on your list

"Aguirre, Wrath of God" and
"Apocalypse Now"

are so similar, one possibility leaped out at me.

"The Johnny Fontaine Story" begins with Luca Brasi going into the stables and finding the horse Khartoom. He pets the horse, and we know he's going to kill it. Then, Jack Woltz wakes up with blood on the satin sheets. Woltz immediately takes a plane to Chicago, where he takes a taxi to the home of Frankie "The Typewriter" Accardo, who lives in a mansion in River Forest. Maybe Woltz stops at a Catholic Church along the way and makes a confession, just in case Accardo kills him.

In the same way that Vito Corleone seemed to live in a world of shadows and darkness, Tony the Typewriter lives in a world of money and.... how to say this?... a world of Chicago, not New York. The music is very important. The music tells the audience that Woltz is descending into hell and is about to make a deal with the devil.

Tony the Typewriter agrees to go into business with Woltz. He makes a suggestion. Increase the budget for the movie that Johnny Fontaine is making, and send the key actors on location.

Frank Sinatra wanted a role in "From Here to Eternity," where he played a soldier in Hawaii who earned extra money by going on dates with wealthy homosexuals. I'd change that. Instead, Johnny Fontaine has the Martin Sheen role in "Apocalypse Now." Make it a dual homage to "Aguirre" as well as "Hearts of Darkness."

Reply to: Ebert: The 1970s was a great decade for films. Today it is much harder to get an inventive, original idea bankrolled. For 2002:
1. Aguirre, Wrath of God (Herzog)
2. Apocalypse Now (Coppola)
7. Raging Bull (Scorsese)

Obviously, you're not opposed to violence on the screen, as long as its' integral to the plot.

AGUIRRE: The cast and crew climbed up mountains, hacked through thick jungle, and rode ferocious Amazonian river rapids on rafts built by natives. At one point, a storm caused a river to flood, burying the film sets underneath several feet of water and destroying all of the rafts built for the film. This flooding was immediately incorporated into the story, as a sequence including a flood and subsequent rebuilding of rafts was shot.

To obtain the monkeys utilized in the climactic sequence, Herzog paid several locals to trap 400 monkeys. The trappers sold the monkeys to someone in Miami, and Herzog came to the airport just as the monkeys were being loaded to be shipped out of the country. He pretended to be a veterinarian and claimed that the monkeys needed vaccinations before leaving the country. Abashedly, the handlers unloaded the monkeys, and Herzog loaded them into his jeep and drove away, used them in the shot they were required for, and released them afterwards into the jungle

AGUIRRE: One of the four rafts becomes separated from the others. A rescue team discovers all the men on the raft dead, killed by unknown attackers. During the night, the remaining rafts are swept away by the rising river.

An Indian couple approaching with a canoe is captured by the explorers, but when the man expresses confusion at the sight of a Bible, he and his wife are murdered at the insistence of the expedition's priest, Brother Gaspar de Carvajal (Del Negro).

Aguirre proclaims himself leader. Ursúa is taken ashore and hanged in the jungle. The group attacks an Indian village, where many of the explorers are killed by spears. Aguirre is now the rleader of a group of slowly starving, hallucinating men. Aguirre remains alone on the slowly circling raft. The raft becomes overrun by monkeys. The crazed Aguirre tells them: "I, the Wrath of God, (end)

Jack Woltz is warned that he cannot harm Johnny Fontaine in any way. Vito Corleone would instantly have him killed. Instead, send Johnny Fontaine on location to a remote part of the jungle with a full crew. (In 1951, Sinatra flew to Africa to visit Ava Gardner while she was filming Mogambo, released in 1953) At night, they sleep in tents. One morning, Fontaine wakes up, puts on his clothes and goes to eat breakfast, and discovers his entire crew has been killed. The local witch doctor thought they were stealing souls with their camera equipment. Show how Johnny Fontaine learns a lesson about death when he stays up late drinking with his buddies, and wakes up the next morning to find their corpses mutilated in a primitive religious ritual, so their spirits can't come back and seek revenge.

In "The Godfather," Michael Corleone made a trip to Sicily. Taking the movie on a road trip is part of making a Great Movie. "The Godfather" was a movie about New York, but we didn't learn much about Vito's business. In Chicago, the Outfit steals a lot of cargo from airplanes. "Detroit makes cars. In Chicago, we steal cars and sell the parts back to Detroit, for a huge profit."

Paramount is remaking an old Dean Martin series "Matt Helm", which was a project being developed at DreamWorks before they split. I can't think of a better time to try to sell a "Godfather IV" script. Paramount, because of their agreement with Marvel, is the only studio that isn't looking for new superhero scripts. They have enough. What they need is an in-house product, without Spielberg or another studio as co-owner, that makes a ton of cash. Paramount owns the rights to "Matt Helm" and I'm pretty sure they own "Godfather."

I cried during the credits, when my 5-year-old daughter asked [we're in the whywhywhy phase], "Why are all of those things taped up there?" I told her, "I think Carl gave Russell Ellie's adventure book."

That did it.

I haven't read the whole comments. But I am with you on the gimmickiness of 3D. And for people who compare 3d to expanding movies like sound and colour did, here's my comment.

Sound and colour adds a new dimension to the movie. Stories can be woven out of dialogues and sounds (obvious) and even the colour can be used to define a movie or even help us interpret it.

3D on the other hand is mere perception. It doesn't add anything concrete into the narrative elements of a movie. A bag placed between two trees, if it cannot be seen in 2d, it cannot be seen in 3d either. We perceive the depth between two trees, but we cannot peak a look between them. As long as we don't accomplish such feats, 3D will unfortunately remain a gimmick.

The best film of the year. How can you possibly resist? Up! Up! and Away!

Reply to: Stop lying, Roger: Every time you go to a publisher with a new book, you strongarm the poor little CEO into handing you a sack of cash, which is then deposited into a Swiss account that is within reasonable distance of your chalet, where you sit on your computer and grumble about things like Transformers and pretend to be like us, the common man,(from the Philosophy of health care entry)

That might actually be the image studio execs have of you, which is good, because it means they'll double it trying to get you on board.

"The Man Who Saved Paramount Studios." Robert Evans wanted the title for himself, but his streak ended too soon. Paramount has just pushed "Shutter Island" back to 2010 because they decided they didn't want to pay $30 mil for an Oscar campaign in a field with 9 other candidates.

Michael Bay: I always start with a question. How do you get someone to commit to leaving their house and going to the theater, when they’ve got all this stuff on the internet, and social networks. That’s why these event movies are working in this climate. I don’t know the answer, but sometimes I hear about movies they’re making and say, “How is that going to get someone out of the house?”. I fear for the business, the way it’s contracting. I like all kinds of movies and dramas seem to be hurting right now, along with small independents. I have projects in those areas and it’s frightening. There should be a place for my type of movies and a place for the ones Steven Soderbergh makes. I’m worried the economy is going to make it only one type and that’s going to be really boring.

Actually, there are going to be two types. Cheap movies that no one wants to see, and Event Movies that everyone wants to see.

Coppola didn't want to make "The Godfather." He made it so the studio would finance "The conversation." The trick is, knowing which movies will work before hiring all the people. Nobody except George Lucas thought "Star Wars" would work. (And George traded points with Steven Spielberg just in case it didn't)

"Titanic" was a story that a small segment of the audience wanted to see, more than once. It worked.

Frank Sinatra was a crooner. He sang in front of a band for a live audience. In many of his recordings, too many of the band are playing, because it's boring to sit there for two hours and never play. But the "real Sinatra music" is just as compelling as it used to be. You need to bring the audience into the night club owned by the Mob guys, by the Outfit in Chicago, and show how people used to have fun before television figured out how to broadcast in color. Sinatra had four #1 hits singing as the front singer of the Tommy Dorsey Band, although he was not credited. These include I'll Never Smile Again, Dolores, There Are Such Things, In The Blue Of Evening.

There's an actress named Diora Baird. Her career is similar to Marilyn Monroe's. I don't know if you'd want to hire an actress who looks like MM, or one who captures her "essential truth." Create a different character who worked her way into movies because she had affairs with studio bosses. That's the set-up the original "Godfather" gave uu:

WOLTZ: Johnny Fontane never gets that movie. That part is perfect for him. It'll make him a big star. I'm gonna run him out of the movies. And let me tell you why. Johnny Fontane ruined one of Woltz International's most valuable proteges. For three years we had her under contract, singing lessons, dancing lessons, acting lessons. I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars. I was gonna make her a big star. She was beautiful, she was innocent, she was the greatest piece of ass I've ever had, and I've had it all over the world. And then Johnny Fontane comes along with

his olive oil voice and guinea charm and she runs off.

She threw it all away just to make me look ridiculous. And a man in my position can't afford to be made to look ridiculous. Now you get the hell out of here. And you tell that gumba that if he wants to try any rough stuff that I ain't no band leader. Yeah, I heard that story. (end)

What movie does Johnny Fontaine make?

FONTANE: A month ago he bought the rights to this book, a best seller. The main character is a guy just like me. I wouldn't even have to act, just be myself. Oh, Godfather, I don't know what to do,

There are other good choices besides "From Here to Eternity":

(1) He was Warner Brothers' first choice to play Harold Hill in THE MUSIC MAN (1962).

(2) Frank Sinatra had the lead in Carousel (Billy Bigelow) in 1956 opposite Shirley Jones, but walked off the set on the first day of filming after he found out that they were going to shoot each scene twice, with two different lens sizes, (once in 35 mm, once in 55 mm) and was quoted as saying “I was paid to make one movie, not two”. He was replaced by Gordon MacRae. Three weeks after he left, they found a way to film the scene once on 35mm, then transfer it onto 55mm.

Billy dies. Standing before the Pearly Gates, Billy is given a chance to return to Earth to try to brighten the life of his unhappy 15-year-old daughter Louise (Susan Luckey). Billy offers Louise a star that he has stolen from the sky; when Louise backs off in fear, Billy slaps her. He... inspires Louise (and, by extension, Julie) by assuring her that so long as she has hope in her heart, she'll never walk alone. (It would be easy to give that song to Sinatra, and see it being filmed.)

(3) In 1957, he turned down the lead in The Pajama Game, which would have teamed him up with singer Janis Paige. As a result, Paige lost the part to Doris Day, who was considered a bigger box-office draw.

(4) Sinatra was considered for the role of Nicky Arnstein in Funny Girl in 1968. Vetoed by Barbra Streisand, who ended up playing opposite Omar Sharif.

(5) Frank was the first choice to play the title role in Dirty Harry in 1971, but broke his finger before shooting started, which launched a film series for Clint Eastwood.

(6) Frank turned down the lead role in Death Wish in 1974. It was given to Charles Bronson, and was the role that made him an international star.

(7) Sinatra was the first choice to play Rod Anderson in WHAT A WAY TO GO! (1964). When Darryl F.Zanuck, balked at his salary demand, Robert Mitchum agreed to play the role at no fee for tax purposes.

(8) Director Kazan approached Sinatra for the role of Terry Malloy in ON THE WATERFRONT (1954) but producer Sam Spiegel favored Brando for his greater pulling power at the box office.

(9) Played the Stage Manager in a musical version of Our Town on a TV special in 1955, with Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint. He introduced one of his signature songs: Love and Marriage.

An Event Movie that tell "The Johnny Fontaine Story" in a way that surprises the audience, by dragging us into Sinatra's career from behind the scenes.

When you look back at the career of Frank Sinatra, doesn't it make you want to pad your own resume? With a Best Picture Oscar, and a bigger paycheck than Michael Bay's for the sequel?

Maybe someone else picked up on this in the 773 bazillion comments above: of course you loved this film Roger, Carl has been drawn with you as a model, admit it. Should we ask Pete Docter to confirm this?!?

Did you hear about the dying child with cancer who was given a private screening of UP? This definitely made me sob.

saw it yesterday and found it very touching. Also: I kept thinking that Carl looks exactly like R. Ebert. Is it just me?

I have never seen a '3d' film, of either the new or the old school.

speaking as a neuroscientist, I would say without hesitation that if it could be implemented, truly 3d cinema would offer tremendous enrichment.

however, speaking also as a neuroscientist I'm pretty dubious that '3d' is 3d.

and unless it is 3d, not '3d', as anyone working in visual perception will assure you, it is to lesser or (more likely) greater extent an aggravating distraction to the proportionately vast swathes of the human (more than other animals, probably any other animal) brain devoted to processing visual stimuli, and not beneficial.

most of all that brain is just quietly doing its job of making it seem as if what you see is really the way it is out there (which it isn't) and its success is testament to the fact you (we) have no idea how much work it does to make seeing appear trivial.

I've never seen a 3d film, as I say. but I find it hard to imagine a pair of spectacles that would transform a 2d phenomena into a 3d without artifact, and subconscious distraction - very slight discomfort even, perhaps tolerated because of the novelty of the stimuli.

sticking just with perspective, as pioneered by Giotto in the early Italian renaissance, is still probably the best bet if, for you, the play remains the thing. we can't do 3d yet, just '3d' parlour tricks

Ebert: Exactly my suspicion.

At this late date probably no one will read this but I need to write it. I just saw Up yesterday, newly released on DVD.

Most people will remember this film for the balloons and the flying house, plus the Road Runner styled aerial antics toward the end. Which is only right because all these were brilliantly imagined and executed, and made the movie the cross-generational hit it was.

But to me it will always be about the Scrapbook. The house has foundered and Carl is discouraged, feeling like an old man again. He leafs through the pages and, as always before, stops at the one lettered "Things I'm gonna do" because it silently accuses him of failing Ellie and her dreams of adventure. Only this time he turns the page. I won't say any more except that I was emotionally blindsided by what follows, especially the scribbled note at the end. I wept as I watched, and do again now at the memory, admittedly for personal reasons but also because it was one of the most real and beautiful moments I have ever experienced in a motion picture.

So it's just as well I watched this at home (sacrificing some visual/audio quality and the "shared audience experience") because if some a**hole had made a smart remark at this point I probably would have spent the night in jail.

I'm sorry, but you look like Mr. Fredrickson. :P

I've seen several movies in 3D, and during the experience I've clearly noticed it was different than 2D, but all my memories of these films, replaying certain scenes in my head, the memory of the film is in 2D.

One of the details I loved in UP was the repeated visual of the protagonists trying to accomplish things while increasingly hindered by dragging around the old house.

And now on to wasting time...
Supposing I created my masterpiece screenplay, something worthy of sinking all the resources required to bring it to the screen. I cannot conceive of any circumstances where my mental visualization of my screenplay involves 3d. Maybe there'd be an individual scene where I'd like the audience to experience 3d, but would it be worth making them wear glasses for the rest of the film?

I can think of a small consolation for those who are tired of hearing from the 3d weenies: someday when "smell theater" is the latest thing these people will probably still be watching fart joke movies.

I always go to Ebert when I'm watching a movie to see what remarks he makes about things I notice in a film and I was surprised that he didn't mention the fact that the Muntz character was an exact replica of Kirk Douglas, I wondered whether there were any "rights" that needed to be given since the likeness was absolutely perfect and Mr. Douglas is now in Hollywood Heaven?

Though, I didn't even catch another posters pondering about Mr. Frederickson looking like Spencer Tracy, Yes.

Gosh, I just love this comment from May 2009.
"I've yet to be won over by the concept of 3-D as the next standard of cinema (and doubt very much, if only for the costs involved, that it will ever catch on fully), but I have to admit I'm still looking forward to the experience of watching "Avatar" in 3-D. Every person that has seen footage from the film, including Steven Soderbergh, seems convinced it will "change everything." The fact that we're half a year from its release with zero promotional material has only piqued my interest even more. (That, plus the fact that it's the most expensive film ever made, with a reported budget of $350 million and upwards -- that's just crazy. Just to pass breaking even, it will need to surpass a large number of the highest grossing films of all time"
And for the rest of you 3D doubters...I just don't get it. Why don't you just not "do" 3D. It is your choice. Why do you have to be haters? Your overall opinion is viable for you, but evidently not for the masses. Watch the 2D version and judge that. Let the rest of us immerse ourselves in 3D.

Hi Roger, I've always appreciated your reviews.

To me 3D is just another cinematic technique that isn't, at the moment, being used appropriately in films.

It should be a tool to emphasize certain parts of the story. I don't have particularly strong examples in mind at the moment, but - like changing between formats in Natural Born Killers, or changing from full frame to a square frame in Kill Bill Vol.2, or switching from color to black and white.

Hitchcock used a variety of wild techniques that greatly emphasized specific moments in his films, and I suspect he would have used 3D in very clever ways.

It definitely doesn't aid in telling the story as a whole but it can draw out an experience.

Roger, I have only one eye, (having lost the right one to glaucoma). I have no interest in 3D, and I only mention this, in case it might put your attitude into perspective.

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