An Appreciation of…Roger Ebert (1942 – 2013)


Earlier this week, it would have been Roger Ebert’s 72nd birthday. Sadly, last year he died. The cinema world lost quite possibly its greatest and most beloved critic. Yes, the cinema community actually LOVED a man paid to tell the general public if the film we worked for months on was actually any good. That tells you how great Ebert was – a good review from the man was like a citation from the president. A bad review would be a death sentence for your film. The question is, why was Ebert such a force to be reckoned with, and quite possibly as powerful as most studio executives?

The reason is because the man cared about cinema. He wasn’t an elitist (although many of his reviews would lead you to think differently), and he would lovingly sit through the most amazing films, and painfully endure the worst piece of crap ever produced – not for him, but for us. The man was trying to protect us from bad cinema and get us to appreciate cinema as an art form, and not just something to be ignored. But then surely Leonard Maltin and all the other great critics try and do the same. The difference is in the way Ebert presented his findings.

Ebert was blessed with a sardonic, biting wit and a lack of tolerance for stupidity. He was also a supremely talented wordsmith, and an undeniably intelligent man. He used all of this in his reviewing style, and when he enjoyed a film, he would let you know how great it was. However, his shining moments came when he hated a film. Most film critics are quick to say “this film sucks”. On the other hand, when Roger hated a film, he HATED IT. He would write the most vicious, but always hilarious, reviews on those really bad films. If the movie is terrible, why not have a few laughs about it as well? Here are some of my favorite zingers that Roger blessed some terrible films with:

On Valentines Day (2010)
Valentine’s Day is being marketed as a Date Movie. I think it’s more of a First-Date Movie. If your date likes it, do not date that person again. And if you like it, there may not be a second date

On Little Indian, Big City (1996)
There is a movie called Fargo playing right now. It is a masterpiece. Go see it. If you, under any circumstances, see Little Indian, Big City, I will never let you read one of my reviews again.

On The Last Airbender (2010)
The Last Airbender is an agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented. The laws of chance suggest that something should have gone right. Not here. It puts a nail in the coffin of low-rent 3D, but it will need a lot more coffins than that

And of course, Roger’s greatest review, which comes from the 1994 film, North:
I hated this movie. Hated, hated, hated, hated, hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.

NOTE: If you want to read more of these reviews, Complex has created a wonderful list of Roger’s most harsh and hilarious reviews. Check it out here

Roger Ebert was the greatest film critic of all time. He managed to not be a grumpy man sitting behind a keyboard, saying how bad a film was, but instead he was an endearing, funny and enlightened individual that was welcomed to the inner circle of cinema better than most people in the industry. He will be missed, and every single person who has anything to say about film – whether you’re a reviewer or a filmmaker, or simply a casual viewer, you owe it all to Roger Ebert.

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