Roger Ebert has been writing film reviews for the Chicago Sun-Times for nearly forty years. And during those four decades, his wide knowledge, keen judgment, prodigious energy, and sharp sense of humor have made him America’s most celebrated film critic. He was the first such critic to win a Pulitzer Prize—one of just three film critics ever to receive that honor—and the only one to have a star dedicated to him on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His groundbreaking hit TV show, At the Movies, meanwhile, has made “two thumbs up” one of the most coveted hallmarks in the entire industry.
No critic alive has reviewed more movies than Roger Ebert, and yet his essential writings have never been collected in a single volume—until now. With Awake in the Dark, both fans and film buffs can finally bask in the best of Ebert’s work. The reviews, interviews, and essays collected here present a picture of this indispensable critic’s numerous contributions to the cinema and cinephilia. From The Godfather to GoodFellas, from Cries and Whispers to Crash, the reviews in Awake in the Dark span some of the most exceptional periods in film history, from the dramatic rise of rebel Hollywood and the heyday of the auteur, to the triumph of blockbuster films such as Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, to the indie revolution that is still with us today.
The extraordinary interviews gathered in Awake in the Dark capture Ebert engaging not only some of the most influential directors of our time—Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, Robert Altman, Werner Herzog, and Ingmar Bergman—but also some of the silver screen’s most respected and dynamic personalities, including actors as diverse as Robert Mitchum, James Stewart, Warren Beatty, and Meryl Streep. Ebert’s remarkable essays play a significant part in Awake in the Dark as well. The book contains some of Ebert’s most admired pieces, among them a moving appreciation of John Cassavetes and a loving tribute to the virtues of black-and-white films.
If Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris were godmother and godfather to the movie generation, then Ebert is its voice from within—a writer whose exceptional intelligence and daily bursts of insight and enthusiasm have shaped the way we think about the movies. Awake in the Dark, therefore, will be a treasure trove not just for fans of this seminal critic, but for anyone desiring a fascinating and compulsively readable chronicle of film since the late 1960s.
For nearly half a century, Roger Ebert’s wide knowledge, keen judgment, prodigious energy, and sharp sense of humor made him America’s most renowned and beloved film critic. From Ebert’s Pulitzer Prize to his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, from his astonishing output of daily reviews to his pioneering work on television with Gene Siskel, his was a career in cinema criticism without peer.
Arriving fifty years after Ebert published his first film review in 1967, this second edition of Awake in the Dark collects Ebert’s essential writings into a single, irresistible volume. Featuring new Top Ten Lists and reviews of the years’ finest films through 2012, this edition allows both fans and film buffs to bask in the best of an extraordinary lifetime’s work. Including reviews from The Godfather to GoodFellas and interviews with everyone from Martin Scorsese to Meryl Streep, as well as showcasing some of Ebert’s most admired essays—among them a moving appreciation of John Cassavetes and a loving tribute to the virtues of black-and-white films—Ebert’s Awake in the Dark is a treasure trove not just for fans of this era-defining critic, but for anyone desiring a compulsively readable chronicle of the silver screen.
Stretching from the dramatic rise of rebel Hollywood and the heyday of the auteur to the triumph of blockbuster films such as Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, to the indie revolution that is still with us today, Awake in the Dark reveals a writer whose exceptional intelligence and daily bursts of insight and enthusiasm helped shape the way we think about the movies. But more than this, Awake in the Dark is a celebration of Ebert’s inimitable voice—a voice still cherished and missed.
The Great Movies III
Roger Ebert University of Chicago Press, 2010 Library of Congress PN1994.E2323 2010 | Dewey Decimal 791.4375
Roger Ebert has been writing film reviews for the Chicago Sun-Times for over four decades now and his biweekly essays on great movies have been appearing there since 1996. As Ebert noted in the introduction to the first collection of those pieces, “They are not the greatest films of all time, because all lists of great movies are a foolish attempt to codify works which must stand alone. But it’s fair to say: If you want to take a tour of the landmarks of the first century of cinema, start here.
Enter The Great Movies III, Ebert’s third collection of essays on the crème de la crème of the silver screen, each one a model of critical appreciation and a blend of love and analysis that will send readers back to the films with a fresh set of eyes and renewed enthusiasm—or maybe even lead to a first-time viewing. From The Godfather: Part II to Groundhog Day, from The Last Picture Show to Last Tango in Paris, the hundred pieces gathered here display a welcome balance between the familiar and the esoteric, spanning Hollywood blockbusters and hidden gems, independent works and foreign language films alike. Each essay draws on Ebert’s vast knowledge of the cinema, its fascinating history, and its breadth of techniques, introducing newcomers to some of the most exceptional movies ever made, while revealing new insights to connoisseurs as well.
Named the most powerful pundit in America by Forbes magazine, and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Roger Ebert is inarguably the most prominent and influential authority on the cinema today. The Great Movies III is sure to please his many fans and further enhance his reputation as America’s most respected—and trusted—film critic.
David Bordwell’s new book is at once a history of film criticism, an analysis of how critics interpret film, and a proposal for an alternative program for film studies. It is an anatomy of film criticism meant to reset the agenda for film scholarship. As such Making Meaning should be a landmark book, a focus for debate from which future film study will evolve.
Bordwell systematically maps different strategies for interpreting films and making meaning, illustrating his points with a vast array of examples from Western film criticism. Following an introductory chapter that sets out the terms and scope of the argument, Bordwell goes on to show how critical institutions constrain and contain the very practices they promote, and how the interpretation of texts has become a central preoccupation of the humanities. He gives lucid accounts of the development of film criticism in France, Britain, and the United States since World War II; analyzes this development through two important types of criticism, thematic-explicatory and symptomatic; and shows that both types, usually seen as antithetical, in fact have much in common. These diverse and even warring schools of criticism share conventional, rhetorical, and problem-solving techniques—a point that has broad-ranging implications for the way critics practice their art. The book concludes with a survey of the alternatives to criticism based on interpretation and, finally, with the proposal that a historical poetics of cinema offers the most fruitful framework for film analysis.
David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson are two of America’s preeminent film scholars. You would be hard pressed to find a serious student of the cinema who hasn’t spent at least a few hours huddled with their seminal introduction to the field—Film Art, now in its ninth edition—or a cable television junkie unaware that the Independent Film Channel sagely christened them the “Critics of the Naughts.” Since launching their blog Observations on Film Art in 2006, the two have added web virtuosos to their growing list of accolades, pitching unconventional long-form pieces engaged with film artistry that have helped to redefine cinematic storytelling for a new age and audience.
Minding Movies presents a selection from over three hundred essays on genre movies, art films, animation, and the business of Hollywood that have graced Bordwell and Thompson’s blog. Informal pieces, conversational in tone but grounded in three decades of authoritative research, the essays gathered here range from in-depth analyses of individual films such as Slumdog Millionaire and Inglourious Basterds to adjustments of Hollywood media claims and forays into cinematic humor. For Bordwell and Thompson, the most fruitful place to begin is how movies are made, how they work, and how they work on us. Written for film lovers, these essays—on topics ranging from Borat to blockbusters and back again—will delight current fans and gain new enthusiasts.
Serious but not solemn, vibrantly informative without condescension, and above all illuminating reading, Minding Movies offers ideas sure to set film lovers thinking—and keep them returning to the silver screen.
Blending unconventional film theory with nontraditional psychology to provide a radically different set of critical methods and propositions about cinema, Moving Image Theory: Ecological Considerations looks at film through its communication properties rather than its social or political implications. Drawing on the tenets of James J. Gibson’s ecological theory of visual perception, the fifteen essays and forty-one illustrations gathered here by editors Joseph D. Anderson and Barbara Fisher Anderson offer a new understanding of how moving images are seen and understood.
Focusing on a more straightforward perception of the world and cinema in an attempt to move film theory closer to reality, Moving Image Theory proposes that we should first understand how cinema communicates information about the representation of the three-dimensional world through properties of image and sound.
Most films tell tales, but what does that involve? How do motion pictures tease us into building what we all agree to call stories? In this study, David Bordwell offers the first comprehensive account of how movies use fundamental principles of narrative representation, unique features of the film medium, and diverse story-telling patterns to construct their fictional narratives. The result is a pioneering, far-reaching work which will change the way we perceive narrative film—and which every serious film scholar, student or fan will welcome.
“This book is of crucial importance to film specialists. I cannot think that any film teacher/scholar would miss reading this work.”—Don Fredricksen, Cornell University
“David Bordwell’s Narration in the Fiction Film is a major contribution to film studies and to narrative theory. The work, I predict, will be widely read, praised, debated, and damned. Brodwell’s originality lies not so much in demonstrating the deficiencies of other theories, which he does very convincingly, but in the scope and design of his project, against which there is no competition of comparable intellectual weight.”—Jerry Carlson, DePaul University
In Planet Hong Kong David Bordwell trains virtually every critical weapon in the cinema studies arsenal on a film industry that has, ironically, been marginalized by its own popular success. Film scholars will be grateful for its theoretical breadth and acuity; film fans will be happy with the graceful way Bordwell weaves into his chapters an extraordinary amount of telling anecdote; and filmmakers will be thrilled with his wonderfully revealing frame-by-frame analyses of Hong Kong cinema's most exemplary moments.
Table of Contents:
1. All Too Extravagant, Too Gratuitously Wild Hong Kong and/as/or Hollywood 2. Local Heroes Two Dragons: Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan 3. The Chinese Connections 4. Once upon a Time in the West Enough to Make Strong Men Weep: John Woo 5. Made in Hong Kong A Chinese Feast: Tsui Hark 6. Formula, Form, and Norm Whatever You Want: Wong Jing 7. Plots, Slack and Stretched 8. Motion Emotion: The Art of the Action Movie Three Martial Masters: Zhang Che, Lau Kar-Leung, King Hu 9. Avant-Pop Cinema Romance On Your Menu: Chungking Express
Further Reading Notes Acknowledgments Index
Reviews of this book: One of our most inventive film scholars, Bordwell takes on one of the most over-the-top cinemas. For 20 years, the Hong Kong film industry was one of the world's most commercially successful and prolific. Recently Western critics have begun to recognize it as possessing a level of creativity almost equal to its financial success--despite its deep roots in genre traditions aimed at a mass audience, Bordwell examines how these elements interact in Hong Kong films to produce an art that is at the same time both popular and significant. He outlines the history, economics, and production techniques of the Hong Kong studios, particularly focussing on the genres that are most closely associated with their success (the kung-fu film, the swordplay epic, the gangster film, and the urban comedy)...By rooting his analyses in detailed readings of the film texts, he is able to convey--as much as mere words can--how this audaciously visceral cinema works...Bordwell is not well known outside academic film circles, but he should be; perhaps this volume will give him the exposure he deserves.
"Bordwell's volume is the most comprehensive Western work on its topic to date. Bordwell first considers how the Hong Kong industry has functioned in its local context, then examines how it captured the East Asian market and achieved cult status in the West...[Bordwell] demonstrates that academic film scholarship can itself be fun, spirited, and of interest to a broad audience."
--Neal Baker, Library Journal
"The wildly popular Hong Kong cinema at last inspires an informed analysis. David Bordwell is the most valuable and readable film scholar in America. He makes a persuasive case for Hong Kong movies as great entertainment and sometimes great art."
--Roger Ebert, Pulitzer-prize winning film critic, Chicago Sun-Times
"Planet Hong Kong offers an exuberant appreciation of the life and times of Hong Kong's highly commercial--and rapidly-cut--cinema."
--Alissa Quart, Lingua Franca
"David Bordwell unpacks the shameless delights of Hong Kong cinema with one eye on the vitality of pop culture and the other on surprises and discoveries which redraw the map of film form and grammar. Here, the road of excess really does lead to the palace of wisdom."
--Tony Rayns, film critic, Sight and Sound
"In Planet Hong Kong David Bordwell trains virtually every critical weapon in the cinema studies arsenal on a film industry that has, ironically, been marginalized by its own popular success. Film scholars will be grateful for its theoretical breadth and acuity; film fans will be happy with the graceful way Bordwell weaves into his chapters an extraordinary amount of telling anecdote; and filmmakers will be thrilled with his wonderfully revealing frame-by-frame analyses of Hong Kong cinema's most exemplary moments."
--James Schamus, producer and writer, The Ice Storm, The Wedding Banquet, Eat Drink Man Woman, Ride with the Devil and the forthcoming Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
"This is the first serious attempt by a distinguished American film academic in dissecting the popular aesthetics and entertainment precepts of the Hong Kong film industry. Planet Hong Kong will certainly be an important work in the growing literature on Hong Kong cinema."
--Stephen Teo, author of Hong Kong Cinema: The Extra Dimensions
"Through rigorous and colorful analysis, Bordwell situates Hong Kong within the mainstream of world film history and, more specifically, as a parallel to a tradition most readers will already be familiar with: Hollywood. Planet Hong Kong will be extremely precious for film students and film scholars alike."
Reviews of this book: The wildly popular Hong Kong cinema at last inspires an informed analysis. David Bordwell is the most valuable and readable film scholar in America. He makes a persuasive case for Hong Kong movies as great entertainment and sometimes great art. --Roger Ebert, Pulitzer Prize-winning flint critic, Chicago Sun-Times
Reviews of this book: A must-read for film students as well as Hong Kong movie fans. And for Hong Kong's moviegoers quick to dismiss mass-market productions as too commercial, uninspired or just plain lowbrow, Planet Hong Kong offers inspiration for a rethink on Hong Kong's homegrown film industry. --Tim Youngs, dotlove.com
Reviews of this book: When new acolytes of Hong Kong cinema sit down to describe it, normally dry writers get juiced on the energy of the films...They want to convey in words the jolt of discovery, the ecstasy of cultdom...Even a relatively staid critic such as structuralist guru David Bordwell seems to be typing in his shorts, with a beer on his desk, in Planet Hong Kong...Combining the study of film form and movie economics, analysis and field work, [he] cogently evokes what separates Hong Kong's buccaneer directors from Hollywood's current storytellers. --Richard Corliss, Time Magazine
Reviews of this book: Rather than simply labeling Hong Kong action movies 'over-the-top,' [Bordwell] offers a close reading of the way they tend to use 'technical tricks'...calling attention to the use of the zoom lens and sound editing as rhythmic devices, rather than simple means of imparting information or telling a story...For all his emphasis on visual style, Bordwell also does justice to the important role of Hong Kong's stars. --Steve Erickson, Senses of Cinema
Reviews of this book: David Bordwell is a scholar who writes as a fan. He is in love with the crazy rip-roaring, vulgar confusion that is Hong Kong cinema, but he also knows how and why it works and explains it in words the layman can understand. --The Economist
Reviews of this book: [This book] is among the best of the recent batch of books on Hong Kong cinema. Much of this ground has been covered before, but Bordwell applies his formalist approach to a broad range of films while never losing sight of the crazy energy that makes them so likeable in the first place. --Film Comment
Reviews of this book: The most sober and thorough book yet on the topic. --Paul F. Duke, Variety
Reviews of this book: A valuable book...vividly written and set out in short, punchy chapters with handsome and well-used film stills...Never inclined to interpret films through a social, political or psychological lens, Bordwell prefers to get at the industry, the systems, craft and style that sustain Hong Kong filmmakers. In a sense, he is after the everydayness of an amazingly vital and driven film colony...What fuels Planet Hong Kong and makes it special is Bordwell's critical belief that any self-sustaining commercial cinema is a particular art in itself, and one astonishingly rare in the history of the medium. A film book this good is likewise almost as rare. --Bart Testa, Globe & Mail
Reviews of this book: Bordwell has written the first informed analysis of one of the greatest success stories in cinema history: Hong Kong, dominant force in Asian film making and an enormous influence on movies around the world...Bordwell loves Hong Kong movies and writes about them with enthusiasm and flair...[He] never loses sight of the fact that Hong Kong's movies, like Hollywood's, are an immensely successful transcultural, popular-culture art form--almost a contradiction in terms--epitomizing the mystery of the movies. --R. D. Sears, Choice
Reviews of this book: Beijing Opera meets hyper-Eisenstein in this sublime orchestration of rapid (constructive) editing, percussive rhythms and patterns of stasis and dynamic movement. This more than anything is Bordwell's great contribution to the study of Hong Kong cinema, and the reason why this is essential reading. --Poshek Fu and David Desser, Scope
Reviews of this book: Planet Hong Kong is...like a conversation with a good friend. Bordwell's voice is personable and intelligent, and he makes history and film more palatable than The Cinema of Hong Kong does for the novice. Bordwell focuses on the art of entertainment...In doing so, the effects are understood beyond language and cultural barriers. --Okden Johnny, Pacific Reader
With Post-Theory, David Bordwell and Noël Carroll challenge the prevailing practices of film scholarship. Since the 1970s, film scholars have been searching for a unified theory that will explain all sorts of films, their production, and their reception; the field has been dominated by structuralist Marxism, varieties of cultural theory, and the psychoanalytic ideas of Freud and Lacan. Bordwell and Carroll ask, why not employ many theories tailored to specific goals, rather than searching for a unified theory? Post-Theory offers fresh directions for understanding film, presenting new essays by twenty-seven scholars on topics as diverse as film scores, audience response, and the national film industries of Russia, Scandinavia, the U.S., and Japan. They use historical, philosophical, psychological, and feminist methods to tackle such basic issues as: What goes on when viewers perceive a film? How do filmmakers exploit conventions? How do movies create illusions? How does a film arouse emotion? Bordwell and Carroll have given space not only to distinguished film scholars but to non-film specialists as well, ensuring a wide variety of opinions and ideas on virtually every topic on the current agenda of film studies. Full of stimulating essays published here for the first time, Post-Theory promises to redefine the study of cinema.
In the 1940s, American movies changed. Flashbacks began to be used in outrageous, unpredictable ways. Soundtracks flaunted voice-over commentary, and characters might pivot from a scene to address the viewer. Incidents were replayed from different characters’ viewpoints, and sometimes those versions proved to be false. Films now plunged viewers into characters’ memories, dreams, and hallucinations. Some films didn’t have protagonists, while others centered on anti-heroes or psychopaths. Women might be on the verge of madness, and neurotic heroes lurched into violent confrontations. Combining many of these ingredients, a new genre emerged—the psychological thriller, populated by women in peril and innocent bystanders targeted for death.
If this sounds like today’s cinema, that’s because it is. In Reinventing Hollywood, David Bordwell examines the full range and depth of trends that crystallized into traditions. He shows how the Christopher Nolans and Quentin Tarantinos of today owe an immense debt to the dynamic, occasionally delirious narrative experiments of the Forties. Through in-depth analyses of films both famous and virtually unknown, from Our Town and All About Eve to Swell Guy and The Guilt of Janet Ames, Bordwell assesses the era’s unique achievements and its legacy for future filmmakers. Reinventing Hollywood is a groundbreaking study of how Hollywood storytelling became a more complex art and essential reading for lovers of popular cinema.
Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris, and Roger Ebert were three of America’s most revered and widely read film critics, more famous than many of the movies they wrote about. But their remarkable contributions to the burgeoning American film criticism of the 1960s and beyond were deeply influenced by four earlier critics: Otis Ferguson, James Agee, Manny Farber, and Parker Tyler. Throughout the 1930s and ’40s, Ferguson, Agee, Farber, and Tyler scrutinized what was on the screen with an intensity not previously seen in popular reviewing. Although largely ignored by the arts media of the day, they honed the sort of serious discussion of films that would be made popular decades later by Kael, Sarris, Ebert and their contemporaries.
With The Rhapsodes, renowned film scholar and critic David Bordwell—an heir to both those legacies—restores to a wider audience the work of Ferguson, Agee, Farber, and Tyler, critics he calls the “Rhapsodes” for the passionate and deliberately offbeat nature of their vernacular prose. Each broke with prevailing currents in criticism in order to find new ways to talk about the popular films that contemporaries often saw at best as trivial, at worst as a betrayal of art. Ferguson saw in Hollywood an engaging, adroit mode of popular storytelling. Agee sought in cinema the lyrical epiphanies found in romantic poetry. Farber, trained as a painter, brought a pictorial intelligence to bear on film. A surrealist, Tyler treated classic Hollywood as a collective hallucination that invited both audience and critic to find moments of subversive pleasure. With his customary clarity and brio, Bordwell takes readers through the relevant cultural and critical landscape and considers the critics’ writing styles, their conceptions of films, and their quarrels. He concludes by examining the profound impact of Ferguson, Agee, Farber, and Tyler on later generations of film writers.
The Rhapsodes allows readers to rediscover these remarkable critics who broke with convention to capture what they found moving, artful, or disappointing in classic Hollywood cinema and explores their robust—and continuing—influence.