Saturday, April 6, 2013

Weekend Weigh-in: What's Your Favorite Roger Ebert Review?

Gone, but never forgotten.

It should come as no surprise to readers of our site that Roger Ebert had a major impact on many of us, and that his writing helped shape the way we look at and talk about movies. Let's celebrate his memory by sharing some our favorite examples of his writing.


  1. One of my favorite Ebert reviews is for Scorsese's adaptation of The Age of Innocence. I particularly love how it concludes:

    By the end, we realize these people have all the same emotions, passions, fears and desires that we do. It is simply that they value them more highly, and are less careless with them, and do not in the cause of self-indulgence choose a moment's pleasure over a lifetime's exquisite and romantic regret.

  2. I don't know that there's any way I could single out just one review. That being said, his Bigger Little Movie Glossary is absolutely indispensable. Funny, clever, and bursting with love for the movies, even those tropes and cliches that drive us all absolutely crazy.

    Also impressive is the fact that his collections of "good movie" reviews (Ebert's Great Movies I-III) and "bad movie" reviews ("I Hated, Hated, HATED This Movie", "Your Movie Sucks" and "A Horrible Experience Of Unbearable Length") are equally compulsively readable. He made criticism relatable, and by all accounts seemed to be a man who was eager to relate with others. His is a legacy worth exploring, and almost all of his reviews, columns, and assorted journalistic ephemera are easily searchable online. Going back and reading through some of it, I find that almost every review is my favorite.

    Plus, his New Yorker caption contest entries are fantastic.

  3. The way Ebert defended The Wild Bunch after its initial release always stuck out to me. Though he is often critical of gratuitous violence, when the strong content of a film served the story effectively, Ebert was always frontline to defend it.

  4. Ebert was a great reviewer, while I cant narrow down my favorite I will say his most recent review I read of Shawshank Redemption was really well done and a good piece. I still havent read a lot of his reviews in paperback and online but caught his tv show quite a lot and really appreciated his defense of Jackie Chan films over the years.

    In case you havent seen it check out his and Siskel's old episode of The Critic they did back in the 90's. They really had a lot of fun with poking fun at themselves RIP Roger

  5. There are so many reviews of Ebert's I've read that few stick out (though I agree with Tom Smail, the slam on "North" is a beaut) but off-the-top-of-my-head the day-of-release reviews of Tim Burton's BATMAN and Roland Emmerich's INDEPENDENCE DAY stand out to me. At the time of their releases I liked these movies and was taken aback that Ebert would saddle them with weak two-star (**1/2 for "Batman") reviews, kind-of like Patrick still mentions Ebert's two-star review of "Die Hard."

    As my taste in movies grew and matured I came around to Ebert's POV on these movies, but I always liked that Roger could articulate his problems with popular films without resorting to Armond White-levels of smugness or elitism. Just well-written arguments and educated opinion disagreeing with the masses. In his slam against 1998;s GODZILLA for example, he (along with Siskel on the TV show) criticized Emmerich and Dean Devlin for poking fun at him being fat and the thumbs up/down and not making it funny or even remotely entertaining.

    The newest NEW-TO-ME TRILOGY:

    If Don Rickles was Italian and pulled a Robin Williams-in-"Good Will Hunting" he'd be in Fernando DiLeo's MILANO CALIBRO 9 (CALIBER 9, 1972) on Blu-ray.

    It was hard out there for a pimp. DiLeo's LA MALA ORDINAL (THE ITALIAN CONNECTION, 1972) on Blu-ray.

    They saved the best for last: Henry Silva vs. "Ghostbuster's" Walter Peck. DiLeo's IL BOSS (THE BOSS, 1973) on Blu-ray.


    NEXT ON TAP: Steven Soderbergh's OCEAN'S TRILOGY.

  6. There are so many, right? I have to start with one of his many pieces about HOOP DREAMS - the first review.

  7. One of my favorite Ebert positive reviews was his 3 & ½ stars review for Aliens. This had to be one of his most conflicted reviews as he clearly didn’t like the almost non-stop intensity of the second half of Aliens but he still admired the performances, effects, & overall craftsmanship of it. Ebert’s writing makes you feel what was really going through his mind & never came off as phony. A lesser critic would‘ve allowed his feelings to ignore all the positives & easily give a Sci-Fi “bug” movie a bad review.

    On the other side, by far, my favorite horrible movie review was his ½ star review for Highlander 2 The Quickening. (I still don’t why Ebert didn’t go all the way & just give it the big zero stars.) It has one of the best intros & endings for an Ebert bashing. “This movie has to be seen to be believed. On the one hand, maybe that’s too high a price to pay". I love how even a strong environmentalist like Ebert just rips apart the screwed up science, the massive plot holes about the time difference between Planet Zeist & Earth, & the immortality rules. It’s one of those reviews you can tell how much fun Ebert had when writing it. He could make the most out of a bad experience. I was only a teenager when I read it in the Chicago Sun Times, but I think that review was what started my fascination with extremely bad or incompetent movies.

    “If there is a planet somewhere whose civilization is based on the worst movies of all time, “Highlander 2: The Quickening” deserves a sacred place among their most treasured artifacts”. Over 21 years later, those words still ring true. Amen, Roger.

    1. Great call, that review always makes me laugh. I feel like he gave it that half star because it really does sort of beg to be seen to be believed.

    2. As much as I liked his good reviews, his bad reviews were brilliant. His best one in my opinion is Armageddon or Freddie Got Fingered.

  8. The extent of my experience with Ebert is mostly limited to his TV show back when Siskel was still with us. For whatever reason I've never been one to read a lot of reviews when movies first come out (I'm more into DVD reviews) so when he stopped doing TV I pretty much stopped hearing much from him.

    Boy, what a mistake - this weekend I watched several movies and then went back and read Ebert's review for each one - I had no idea what a down-to-earth, unpretentious writing style he had, not to mention the fact we seem to share fairly similar sensibilities. I am truly a fan, in some ways too late, but given how unfamiliar I am with his body of work, I still have A LOT of Ebert to enjoy for the first time. At the risk of sounding (pop)corny, his death has given him new life for me and I look forward to getting to know him better.