Film and Media

Scorsese Goes to Dinner

May 18, 2016
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Scorsese Goes to Dinner

Via an excerpt from the postscript to Roger Ebert’s Two Weeks in the Midday Sun, up at Esquire: My wife and I sit all by ourselves at the table for 10, awaiting Monsieur Scorsese. Around us, desperate and harried waiters ricochet from table to table with steaming tureens of fish soup and groaning platters of whole lobster, grilled fish, garlic paste, crisp toast, boiled potatoes, and the other accoutrements of a bowl of bouillabaisse. To occupy an unused table in a busy French restaurant is to be the object of dirty looks from every waiter; if you are going to be late, be late—don’t be the ones who get there early and take the heat. Around us, tout le Hollywood slurps its soup. There is Rob Friedman, second in command at Paramount. Over there is Woody Harrelson, who explains he partied till 6 A.M. and then slept two hours, and that was 15 hours ago. He wears the same thoughtful facial expression that his character in Kingpin did when his hand was amputated in the bowling ball polisher. Next to him is Milos Forman, who directed him in The People vs. Larry Flynt. Across from him is director Sydney Pollack (Tootsie). Across from . . .

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Two Weeks in the Midday Sun: A Cannes Notebook

May 9, 2016
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Two Weeks in the Midday Sun: A Cannes Notebook

Just in time for this week’s opening days of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, we’re thrilled to publish Roger Ebert’s Two Weeks in the Midday Sun: A Cannes Notebook, with a new foreword by Martin Scorsese and a new postscript. You can read more about the book below, and for the next month, download a free e-book version of Ebert’s Bests, which combines a selection of Ebert’s beloved “10 Bests” lists with the story of how he became a film critic. *** A paragon of cinema criticism for decades, Roger Ebert—with his humor, sagacity, and no-nonsense thumb—achieved a renown unlikely ever to be equaled. His tireless commentary has been greatly missed since his death, but, thankfully, in addition to his mountains of daily reviews, Ebert also left behind a legacy of lyrical long-form writing. And with Two Weeks in the Midday Sun, we get a glimpse not only into Ebert the man, but also behind the scenes of one of the most glamorous and peculiar of cinematic rituals: the Cannes Film Festival. More about people than movies, this book is an intimate, quirky, and witty account of the parade of personalities attending the 1987 festival—Ebert’s twelfth, and the fortieth anniversary of the . . .

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Free e-book for May: Ebert’s Best

May 2, 2016
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Free e-book for May: Ebert’s Best

Our free e-book for March is Ebert’s Best by Roger Ebert. Download your copy here. *** Roger Ebert is a name synonymous with the movies. In Ebert’s Bests, he takes readers through the journey of how he became a film critic, from his days at a student-run cinema club to his rise as a television commentator in At the Movies and Siskel & Ebert. Recounting the influence of the French New Wave, his friendships with Werner Herzog and Martin Scorsese, as well as travels to Sweden and Rome to visit Ingrid Bergman and Federico Fellini, Ebert never loses sight of film as a key component of our cultural identity. In considering the ethics of film criticism—why we should take all film seriously, without prejudgment or condescension—he argues that film critics ought always to engage in open-minded dialogue with a movie. Extending this to his accompanying selection of “10 Bests,” he reminds us that hearts and minds—and even rankings—are bound to change. *** To read more about books by Roger Ebert published by the University of Chicago Press, click here. . . .

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Rodney Powell on the anniversary of Roger Ebert’s death

April 4, 2016
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Rodney Powell on the anniversary of Roger Ebert’s death

To commemorate the third anniversary of Roger Ebert’s death, we asked UCP film studies editor Rodney Powell to consider his legacy. Read after the jump below. *** It’s three years since Roger Ebert’s death; for three years we’ve been deprived of his reviews, “Great Movies” essays, and journal entries. Fortunately most of his writing remains available online, and the University of Chicago Press has been privileged to publish three of his books—Awake in the Dark, Scorsese by Ebert, and The Great Movies III, with a fourth, a reprint of Two Weeks in the Midday Sun: A Cannes Notebook just out. And there’s more to come, with The Great Movies IV due this fall. So I think this should be an occasion for celebrating rather than lamenting. My own hope is that, as the celebrity status he attained fades from memory, he will be recognized for the brilliant writer he was. Within the confines of the shorter forms in which he wrote, he was an absolute master. Of course not every piece was at the same high level, but a remarkable percentage of his vast output will, I think, stand the test of time. Here I will only mention the high . . .

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WJT Mitchell on Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur

January 21, 2016
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WJT Mitchell on Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur

From WJT Mitchell’s review of Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur, live at the LA Review of Books: The Pet Collector reminds us of the most fundamental role of language: the ability to name things, and by doing so, to make them belong to us, and we to them. (The naming of and “dominion over” animals are central to Adam’s role in the Garden of Eden.) But the Collector doesn’t just take possession of his adopted family of animals; in his excessive abundance of attachments, he is clearly also possessed, and appears to be a fearful hoarder of living things. Arlo, by contrast, only needs his one companion, Spot, and he is comfortable with letting Spot go when he finds a human family to join at the conclusion of the film. All this reeks of what anthropologists used to call totemism, the adoption of natural things (animals and plants) as kinfolk and symbols of kinship in so-called primitive cultures. The problem is that dinosaurs were unknown to primitive cultures; they are a thoroughly modern discovery, never named, classified, or adopted until the British paleontologist Richard Owen proclaimed their existence in 1843. Could it be that modern cultures need totemism too? Freud’s Totem and Taboo argued . . .

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Roger Ebert and Life Itself

January 22, 2014
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Roger Ebert and Life Itself

This past weekend saw the Sundance Film Festival premiere of Life Itself, a doc biopic about the life of Roger Ebert by Hoop Dreams documentarian and native Chicagoan Steve James (a sensitive aside on the Festival’s blog notes, “In his review, Ebert wrote that Hoop Dreams ‘gives us the impression of having touched life itself.’”). The fact that the film was partially crowdfunded should testify to Ebert’s legacy: as one of the most erudite yet approachable critics of the medium. The Chicago Tribune recently ran a long piece on life after Ebert, focusing on his widow, Chaz, and her many projects in development that build off of Ebert’s “brand”—everything from a cartoon series and a film studies center at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign to RogerEbert.com and the long-standing Roger Ebert’s Film Festival, now in its sixteenth year. As the article noted: “Maybe Roger knew that he was going,” Chaz Ebert says. “Why else would he give me his secret password to his Twitter code or his Facebook code? He had never given those to me before. Why else would he admonish me in the hospital every time I’d visit: ‘You must keep my Twitter account alive. You must keep . . .

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MOMA names Dave Kehr Adjunct Film Curator

October 28, 2013
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MOMA names Dave Kehr Adjunct Film Curator

Congrats are due to film critic, programmer, and UCP author Dave Kehr on his new gig as adjunct curator of film at MOMA, where he will take on the task of creating exhibitions for MOMA’s New York-based cinemas, as well as engaging with the vast holdings of their film archive. From Rajendra Roy, MOMA’s Chief Curator of Film, in the press release: Dave Kehr has a hard-earned and dedicated international following as a champion of the under-recognized and long-forgotten in cinema. His writing has helped uncover numerous lost gems, provided support for their preservation, and inspired countless cinephiles and filmmakers alike. We are thrilled to have him dive into our collection and add his voice to the celebration of the art of the motion picture. Kehr was chief film critic at the Chicago Reader from 1974 to 1985, before moving to the Chicago Tribune (1985–92), the New York Daily News (1993–98), and finally the New York Times, where he took over the “At the Movies” column in 2000 and where he continues to write on DVD releases. When Movies Mattered: Reviews from a Transformative Decade presents a selection of Kehr’s greatest hits from his stint at the Reader, including his . . .

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A Still feature

June 4, 2013
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A Still feature

David S. Shields’s Still: American Silent Motion Picture Photography chronicles the still camera work generated by the American silent film industry—and in the process, uncovers the intersection of publicity and aesthetics that shaped our placement of cinematic culture. Fittingly, it’s profiled over at the Turner Classic Movies site, which touches on the relevance of Shields’s endeavor: Recent movies like The Artist and Hugo (both 2011) have recreated the wonder and magic of silent film for modern audiences, many of whom might never have experienced a movie without sound. While the American silent movie was one of the most significant popular art forms of the modern age, it is also one that is largely lost to us, as more than 80 percent of silent films have disappeared. We now know about many of these cinematic masterpieces only from collections of still portraits and production photographs that were originally created for publicity and reference. Still: American Silent Motion Picture Photography (The University of Chicago Press), by David S. Shields, is the first history of still camera work generated by the American silent motion picture industry. Exploring the work of over 60 camera artists, Still recovers the stories of the photographers who descended on . . .

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Roger Ebert (1942–2013)

April 5, 2013
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Roger Ebert (1942–2013)

Rodney F. Powell, our editor for film and cinema studies, remembers Roger Ebert: Alas, Roger Ebert has passed, too soon at 70. The University of Chicago Press has been privileged to publish three of his books—Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert, Scorsese by Ebert, and The Great Movies III. I worked on all three, and Ebert’s professionalism and good humor were always evident. It was also a pleasure to note his passionate advocacy of the printed word—as a voracious reader, as well as an enthusiastic film-lover. Ebert’s celebrity status tended to obscure the fact that was hidden in plain sight throughout his career—that he was, first and foremost, an excellent writer. His ability to recognize the essential in films was matched by his ability to write clearly, concisely, and evocatively about those essential qualities, with a welcoming, unforced ease. He brought those same qualities from his daily reviews to the longer and more reflective essays he wrote for his Great Movies series. And, at his best, there was something more. Like other lasting critics, he could make his readers understand the moral qualities of the works he valued most by revealing how they made audiences think about . . .

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UCP Best of 2012 Staff Picks

December 17, 2012
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UCP Best of 2012 Staff Picks

To catch the wave of year-end lists and Best of the Best citations, we thought to extend our reach beyond the books we publish here at the Press, and ask some of our scholarly tastemakers the works they’d endorse as most praiseworthy in 2012. Not every pick is new and you’ll see some selections here that may not flit across the landscape of other favorites lists—but we’ll be posting the books that made our radar blink all week long, with salutations to the authors, ideas, and publishers (large and small) that keep us coming back for more. *** Today, we’re off and running with picks from Carol Fisher Saller, our assistant managing editor of manuscript editing at the Press, author of The Subversive Copy Editor: Advice from Chicago (Or, How to Negotiate Good Relationships with Your Writers, Your Colleagues, and Yourself), and editor of The Chicago Manual of Style Online’s Q & A + Rodney Powell, our assistant editor acquiring in film and cinema studies and all-around movie guru:   What the Zhang Boys Know, by Clifford Garstang (Press 53, 2012), is a tender look at the residents of the Nanking Mansions condos in the unevenly gentrifying Chinatown of Washington, . . .

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