Archive | Essays

‘Life Itself,’ Roger, and Me

In 2005 Roger Ebert e-mailed me out of the blue to say he liked my tiny cinema blog. I had met him the month before at his yearly celebration of film, then called The Overlooked Film Festival. (Later it became Ebertfest.) We’d discussed our shared love of science fiction at his favorite fast food joint, Steak ‘n Shake, which is where all the attendees – from Jason Patric to Dusty Cohl, the cowboy hat-clad co-founder of the Toronto International Film Festival – hung every night after screenings. Our conversation was lively and warm but I was still floored that Roger followed up by checking out my writings. It was an act of unsolicited generosity that I came to recognize as one of his trademarks. Soon after, I was offered the position of the festival’s blogger, which I held until 2010. Even afterward, he remained supportive of my work in ways that meant the world to me.

By the time I met Roger he’d already struggled with a bout of cancer. It was an awkward moment in his life – some of the star that had been attached to him when he was part of the legendary “Siskel and Ebert” team had faded, and he hadn’t yet secured the relationship with a younger generation of critics and fans that he later built through blogging and Twitter. During those years I found him curious, resourceful, benevolent. He was much more than a mere film critic; he was a beacon. Occasionally I also found him egotistical – a king who resented the dwindling of his kingdom – and retrogressive when it came to women despite the fact that he was married to a strong woman himself. Roger preferred deference from others, and that could be wearying. Above all, though, I greatly admired his uncanny work ethic, as well as his willingness to curate and celebrate talent. Continue Reading →

The Stellar Success of ‘TFIOS’: Now What?

The following is a report originally published in Word and Film.

As The Fault in Our Stars heads into its second weekend of release, it remains to be seen if it will emerge as one of the summer’s biggest blockbusters. Either way, though, it’s safe to say the adaptation of the popular young adult novel is a wild success. Pulling in nearly $50 million its opening weekend, it outstripped even optimistic box office predictions, not to mention The Edge of Tomorrow, the Tom Cruise sci-fi action movie that opened the same day. That’s right: This little weepie about two teens with cancer knocked a Tom Cruise movie out of first place at the box office. (Actually, the Angelina Jolie vehicle Maleficent also beat it out.) What’s more, “TFIOS” cost only $12 million to make, in contrast to the $175 million it cost to make “Edge.” And what’s even more, given its groundswell of support, “TFIOS” required a marketing budget of less than half of what movie studio 20th Century Fox usually spends to publicize a summer film. The profit margin is huge.

Granted, that’s a whole lot of business blather. But in Hollywood, money talks. And the big question now is whether the success of “TFIOS” will change what we can expect in the multiplexes in the years to come. As veteran Hollywood reporter Anne Thompson has observed, mid-range films — ones with budgets between $5 and 100 million — aren’t getting made anymore. (Annie Hall would have been made as an independent film today.) We’re all acquainted with what’s being produced instead: superhero and action movies galore. Sure, fantasy YA has already secured its position on the marquee; the massive success of such franchises as “Twilight,” “The Hunger Games,” and, most recently, “Divergent” has made sure of that. But given how much money “TFIOS” cleared, might big movie studios be ready to adapt other “grounded” (non-fantasy) YA novels? And — the mind reels — might it be ready to put more money behind grounded YA novels that star females? (Indiewire’s Inkoo Kang reports that, of the 100 highest-earning movies of 2013, movies with a female protagonist earned twenty percent more on average than movies with a male protagonist.) Continue Reading →

Of Heels and Men (Or: Heels and Heels)

I know the common wisdom is women wear high heels to attract men but my boyfriends have never liked me wearing them. I’m a moderately tall woman with unapologetic posture—none of that stooping or pigeon-toeing you find in many ladies of a certain height. Chalk it up to my stint as a yogi, as well as the fact that I am the shortest woman in my family. I am still taller than my dad; in the Rosman clan, a phallus doesn’t necessarily grant you physical dominance.

Maybe it was a desire to get as far as possible from Dad that led me to dating improbably tall men when I was younger. Six foot two, six foot four —one boyfriend (a German, no less) was six foot six. But I also think many women are wired for tall men, as if their height genetically signals good bones, good brains, good odds. Not to mention that it’s hard to resist a fellow who can swing you over his shoulders.

In my early 30s I began a serious relationship with a man poised to become a huge success. This man was not only relatively short (only a few inches taller than me) but physically unprepossessing. I ended our relationship for a reason I still do not regret despite the legendary Internet company he launched soon after our breakup. I appreciated his mind, work ethic, and self-confidence, but couldn’t bear the prospect of a life in which his body was the only to which I had access. As he himself barely acknowledged the body in question, it would have been a patently unfair arrangement. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy