Friday, July 17, 2009

Roger Ebert on Being a Critic

Not too long ago, after many years of obsessively plundering his movie review archives on the Chicago Sun-Times website, I discovered that critic Roger Ebert writes a blog--a fantastic one, at that. Unlike in short reviews published in newspapers, he's allowed to write as much as he wants. And it's brilliant.

This particular post caught my eye last week, in which he discusses the viewpoints of commenters who disagreed with his negative review of Transformers 2. Roger uses the opportunity to talk about what goes into being a critic, but also answers his hecklers: "We should respect differing opinions up to a point, and then it's time for the wise to blow the whistle."

What is fascinating here is to read his thought process in judging films. To those who say he is an elitist and a brainiac, they might be right. But that's why I love him so. Let others get their movie news from tabloid T.V.; I like being able to compare my own opinions to those of another snarky smartypants--albeit one with decades more life experience (did you know that he and Paul McCartney were born on the very same day?).

Several years ago I had the good fortune to meet Roger at BookExpo in Chicago. I waited in line for his autograph on a free copy of the preceding year's edition of his movie yearbook. I was tickled at the opportunity to meet a like-minded soul and tell him how much I've appreciated him all these years. But when I stepped up to him, all I could muster was "I love reading your reviews!" The look he gave me was sheer "you gotta be kidding me."

So, Roger, if you ever stumble upon this, what I meant to say was thank you for being the voice of art, literature, and intelligence in an industry that's based on flash and cash and big explosions. You've got the world's most awesome job (except, of course, when you're forced to go see movies like Transformers 2), and nobody does it as well as you do.


Laurence Shatkin said...

According to Wikipedia, nobody famous was born on the exact same date as I was. But Benjamin Netanyahu was born exactly one year later.

GJ said...

Even better, Laurence, you share a birthday with Carrie Fisher and Judge Judy!

Back to the main topic: Ebert is a really good writer. I wish he would write a book about something other than movies.

Lori Cates Hand said...

You know, I really think someday he might. His blog has shown that he's got the chops to write about anything.