Posts Tagged 'Ebert'

Roger Ebert Writes for Me!

Here is the 2nd post about Mr. Ebert and in no way the final one. You’ll hear about him again in a month or so when I make my list of Top 10 movies from 2008. It will be shared with all, even though it will be written mostly for me. 

Back to Ebert. He has a bi-weekly column called “Great Movies,” in which he… reviews a Great Movie. It can be popular, obscure, old, new, black & white, color, silent, talkie, or any mixture of them. It is a great way to learn about movies. And it is not an absolute science. For instance, he recently reviewed 2002’s “Adaptation,” which was not his #1 movie of that year, “Minority Report” was, but “Adaptation” has been bumped up to Great status first. This is neither here nor there.

It is not unkind or untrue to say that Ebert is getting older. He has health problems. He has been unable to speak for at least 18 months, and worse, he was unable to write for a long, empty spell. It seems to me like he is choosing movies as his way to say good-bye. He is making amends with some movies, like “The Godfather, Part II.” He is choosing movies about God – recently “Through a Glass Darkly” and “The Last Temptation of Christ” – and now “Magnolia,” (my favorite film) which is also quite a lot about death, as are “Adaptation” and “A Prairie Home Companion,” which was the final film of one of Ebert’s favorite filmmakers, Robert Altman. As it happens, Paul Thomas Anderson, who wrote and directed “Magnolia” helped out on that film, since Altman was sick. He acted as insurance for the film’s completion. If “Magnolia” is interested with the interconnectivity of life, then its appearance at this very moment in Ebert’s cannot be overlooked.

Ebert discusses the film’s obsession with coincidences, or rather, how coincidence may not be coincidence at all, it just seems that way from down here. So what does it mean that the review was posted on Thanksgiving? And what does it mean that I was in Ebert’s home city of Chicago this Thanksgiving, on the VERY DAY he published this review? Did he write this review for me and neither of us knew it? 

I have not talked about “Magnolia” yet, really, and I’m not going to. Too early in the blog’s life to go on and on about it… and I will. For now, be contented that Ebert is the world’s best film critic, and even though “Magnolia” is not his favorite movie of all time, I betcha he writes about it better than I will. Read it.

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Untitled Blog About Roger Ebert, Criticism, and Classic Movies

I’ve been watching and reading reviews by Roger Ebert for more than half my life, now. In Junior High, I was elated to find that we both loved “L.A. Confidential” and sad that he did not share my unbridled enthusiasm for “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer,” regarded by me, at the time of its release, to be the best movie that year. In 2005, he and I agreed, to my big surprise, that “Crash” was the best film of the year. Last year, we had another big disagreement about the merits of “Juno.”

What places his words above those of other critics are his observations of technique and theme and life, his understanding of those criteria within the scope of human and film history, and his unconditional love of movie-lovers. He would know, he is one. I read a great many critics opinions, but it is Ebert who has taught me the most, both about movies and about criticism.

Recently he posted a blog called “Why I’m so Conservative” in which he stated:

For some time past I’ve realized I am profoundly conservative. No, not in my politics. In my thinking about the movies, and particularly about how best to experience them. This may be a character flaw, but I cherish it, and believe it helps my criticism. I adhere to the notion that the best way to see a movie is by light projected through celluloid onto a large screen in front of a sizable audience that gives it their full attention. The key words here are projected, celluloid, large screen and attention…

I love silent films. I miss radio drama. In some matters, I feel almost like a reactionary. I love books, for example. Physical books with pages, bindings, tactile qualities and even smell. Once a year I take down my hardbound copy of the works of Ambrose Bierce, purchased for $1.99 by mail order when I was about 11, simply to inhale it. Still as curiously pungent as ever. I summarily reject any opportunity to read a book by digital means…”

I could not agree more. It is my contention that one of the most meaningful and satisfying things to say in the English language is “hardback book.” And I’ve been making it a point to see classic movies on the big screen whenever I can. This year, I’ve seen “Casablanca” and “The Wizard of Oz,” both of which I’d seen many times before. But up until seeing them in a theater with a large crowd of other people, I had never fully appreciated them, or understood them, or taken in their cinematic charms. Mostly, though, it has made me yearn for that old era of movie-going. there are so many new releases today that even “The Dark Knight,” which has made over $500 million, is now on the verge of being forgotten, less than three months after its release. Just 10 years ago, “Titanic” was #1 at the Box Office for 17 consecutive weeks!

It’s hard to watch a Classic movie on DVD without lumping it into this mode of movie-going. But seeing them up there in a dark theater, with hundreds of strangers, people of all ages, you can get a hint of how they became Classics. You can see why they mean so much more to so many more people than so many of the movies today. I love having more choices of what to see, but I wish I could experience the feeling of a movie that is in town for months and months, that people go see 10 times, that they take their friends to, then their families, then they go to them alone, then again just because. That communal sense is lost, I think, and I guess I’m a bit jealous I never got to be there. It’s hard to feel you’re seeing a New Classic (and despite your opinions on them, both “The Dark Knight” AND “Titanic” certainly are… that is a separate blog though), when it’s gone so quickly from the public radar. The power of NEW seems to trump all, and I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.

Once in a blue moon, movies can still feel communal. Usually they are smaller films. I saw “Memento” in theaters 3 times, taking my Dad, then different friends. I introduce everyone I can to the charms and powers of “Once.” And whenever I have a big group of people over for a movie night and they can’t decide, my default choice is “Brick.” “Donnie Darko” was another movie like that – I bought it, watched it over and over with anyone who would watch it, loaned it to people. So that’s… 4 movies in 7 years.

This has been an untidy blog, I agree. Is it about Ebert? Is is about Criticism? Is it about Movies? They all mix together in my head, I guess, so it seems only fitting to put them all together.


It Has Come to This

November 2017
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