Roger Ebert

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Snobs exclude; they do not include. To exclude b&w from your choices is an admission that you have a closed mind, a limited imagination, or are lacking in taste.
Meyer is an auteur whose every frame reflects his own obsessions. Like all serious artists, he doesn't allow any space between his work and his dream.
It is human nature to look away from illness. We don't enjoy a reminder of our own fragile mortality. That's why writing on the Internet has become a life-saver for me. My ability to think and write have not been affected. And on the Web, my real voice finds expression.

Roger Joseph Ebert (June 18, 1942April 4, 2013) was an American film critic and screenwriter. He was the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.

Quotes[edit]

  • One of the remarkable things about Russ Meyer's films is that they continue to live and play, long after the other work of the soft-core era has been forgotten. That is partly because of their craftsmanship, partly because of Meyer's leading ladies, and partly because of a spirit of paramilitary commitment that can be sensed as the cast and crew struggle through rugged terrain to enact their rural melodramas. But the central reason, I believe, is that Meyer is an auteur whose every frame reflects his own obsessions. Like all serious artists, he doesn't allow any space between his work and his dream.
  • Of what use is freedom of speech to those who fear to offend?
    • Roger Ebert's Movie Home Companion (1990 Edition), p. 735
  • Art is the closest we can come to understanding how a stranger really feels.
  • Well, what is a political film? A film about politicians? Or a film about issues — sexism, racism, the environment, nuclear policy? I decided on the broader definition. If I'd limited myself to films about politicians, it would have been a short list: How many characters in any mainstream American movie seem aware of the political process, or belong to a party?
  • Doing research on the Web is like using a library assembled piecemeal by pack rats and vandalized nightly.
  • I had a colonoscopy once, and they let me watch it on TV. It was more entertaining than The Brown Bunny.
    • Review of an early version of The Brown Bunny, when it was shown at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival (4 June 2003)
      • After director Vincent Gallo responded to the above criticism by mocking Ebert's obesity, Ebert responded: "It is true that I am fat, but one day I will be thin, and he will still be the director of The Brown Bunny." [1] (4 June 2003)
  • Many moviegoers and video viewers say they do not "like" black and white films. In my opinion, they are cutting themselves off from much of the mystery and beauty of the movies.
    Black and white is an artistic choice, a medium that has strengths and traditions, especially in its use of light and shadow.
    Moviegoers of course have the right to dislike b&w, but it is not something they should be proud of. It reveals them, frankly, as cinematically illiterate.
    I have been described as a snob on this issue. But snobs exclude; they do not include. To exclude b&w from your choices is an admission that you have a closed mind, a limited imagination, or are lacking in taste.
  • A depressing number of people seem to process everything literally. They are to wit as a blind man is to a forest, able to find every tree, but each one coming as a surprise.
  • I didn't have a stop watch, but it seemed to me the elephantine action scenes were pretty much spaced out evenly through the movie. There was no starting out slow and building up to a big climax. The movie is pretty much all climax. The Autobots® and Decepticons® must not have read the warning label on their Viagra. At last we see what a four-hour erection looks like.
  • The Golden Thumb is not as good as the Oscar, but it is a lot of fun.
    • "A Film Critic's Windy City Home' in The New York Times (13 February 2005)
  • I have discovered a goodness and decency in people as exhibited in all the letters, e-mails, flowers, gifts and prayers that have been directed my way. I am overwhelmed and humbled. I offer you my most sincere thanks and my deep and abiding gratitude. If I ever write my memoirs, I have some spellbinding material. How does the Joni Mitchell song go? "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone"? One thing I've discovered is that I love my job more than I thought I did, and I love my wife even more!
    • "Roger writes to readers" Chicago Sun Times (11 October 2006)
  • I was instructed long ago by a wise editor, "If you understand something you can explain it so that almost anyone can understand it. If you don't, you won't be able to understand your own explanation." That is why 90% of academic film theory is bullshit. Jargon is the last refuge of the scoundrel.
  • It is human nature to look away from illness. We don't enjoy a reminder of our own fragile mortality. That's why writing on the Internet has become a life-saver for me. My ability to think and write have not been affected. And on the Web, my real voice finds expression.
  • So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I'll see you at the movies.
  • My choice is to not support abortion, except in cases of a clear-cut choice between the lives of the mother and child. A child conceived through incest or rape is innocent and deserves the right to be born.

Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert (2006)[edit]

ISBN 0226182002
  • I began my work as a film critic in 1967. I had not thought to be a film critic, and indeed had few firm career plans apart from vague notions that I might someday be a political columnist or a professor of English.
    Robert Zonka, who was named the paper's feature editor the same day I was hired at the Chicago Sun-Times, became one of the best friends of a lifetime. One day in March 1967, he called me into a conference room, told me that Eleanor Keen, the paper's movie critic, was retiring, and that I was the new critic. I walked away in elation and disbelief, yet hardly suspected that this day would set the course for the rest of my life.
  • In my very first review I was already jaded, observing of "Galia," an obscure French film, that it "opens and closes with arty shots of the ocean, mother of us all, but in between it's pretty clear that what is washing ashore is the French New Wave." My pose in those days was one of superiority to the movies, although just when I had the exact angle of condescension calculated, a movie would open that disarmed my defenses and left me ecstatic and joyful.
  • Herzog by his example gave me a model for the film artist: fearless, driven by his subjects, indifferent to commercial considerations, trusting his audience to follow him anywhere. In the 38 years since I saw my first Herzog film, after an outpouring of some 50 features and documentaries, he has never created a single film that is compromised, shameful, made for pragmatic reasons or uninteresting. Even his failures are spectacular.

Your Movie Sucks (2007)[edit]

ISBN 0740763660
  • Some of these reviews were written in joyous zeal. Others with glee. Some in sorrow, some in anger, and a precious few with venom, of which I have a closely guarded supply. When I am asked, all too frequently, if I really sit all the way through these movies, my answer is inevitably: Yes, because I want to write the review.
    I would guess that I have not mentioned my Pulitzer Prize in a review except once or twice since 1975, but at the moment I read Rob Schneider's extremely unwise open letter to Patrick Goldstein, I knew I was receiving a home-run pitch, right over the plate. Other reviews were written in various spirits, some of them almost benevolently, but of Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, all I can say is that it is a movie made to inspire the title of a book like this.
    • Introduction

Life Itself : A Memoir (2011)[edit]

  • Absolutists frighten me. During all the endless discussions on my blog about evolution, intelligent design, God, and the afterworld, numbering altogether thousands of comments, I have never named my beliefs, although readers have freely informed me that I am an atheist, and agnostic, or at the very least a secular humanist — which I am.
    • Ch. 53 : My Last Words
  • "Kindness" covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.
    • Ch. 53 : My Last Words

Reviews[edit]

Zero star reviews[edit]

  • Caligula is sickening, utterly worthless, shameful trash. If it is not the worst film I have ever seen, that makes it all the more shameful: People with talent allowed themselves to participate in this travesty. Disgusted and unspeakably depressed, I walked out of the film after two hours of its 170-minute length. That was on Saturday night, as a line of hundreds of people stretched down Lincoln Ave., waiting to pay $7.50 apiece to become eyewitnesses to shame..."This movie," said the lady in front of me at the drinking fountain, "is the worst piece of shit I have ever seen."
  • Deuce Bigalow is aggressively bad, as if it wants to cause suffering to the audience. The best thing about it is that it runs for only 75 minutes. … Does this sound like a movie you want to see? It sounds to me like a movie that Columbia Pictures and the film's producers … should be discussing in long, sad conversations with their inner child.
    The movie created a spot of controversy... Rob Schneider took offense when Patrick Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times listed [2004's] Best Picture nominees and wrote that they were "ignored, unloved, and turned down flat by most of the same studios that ... bankroll hundreds of sequels, including a follow-up to Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, a film that was sadly overlooked at Oscar time because apparently nobody had the foresight to invent a category for Best Running Penis Joke Delivered by a Third-Rate Comic."
    Schneider retaliated by attacking Goldstein in full-page ads in Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter. In an open letter to Goldstein, Schneider wrote: "Well, Mr. Goldstein, I decided to do some research to find out what awards you have won. I went online and found that you have won nothing. Absolutely nothing. No journalistic awards of any kind. ... Maybe you didn't win a Pulitzer Prize because they haven't invented a category for Best Third-Rate, Unfunny Pompous Reporter Who's Never Been Acknowledged by His Peers..." As chance would have it, I have won the Pulitzer Prize, and so I am qualified. Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks."
  • A burning at the stake, an afternoon in the rack, headscrews, a douche with boiling water, nails into hands, induced vomiting, ripped tongues, dead babes, human target practice, possession by devils, rape, transvestism, nude orgies in the nunnery. Put them all together and they spell Committed Art, because these are modern times and I certainly hope none of us is opposed to truth.
  • Crowds can be frightening. They have a way of impressing the low, base taste upon their members. Watching the way thousands of people in his audience could not think for themselves, could not find the courage to allow their ordinary feelings of decency and taste to prevail, I understood better how demagogues are possible.
  • Dirty Love wasn't written and directed, it was committed. Here is a film so pitiful, it doesn't rise to the level of badness. It is hopelessly incompetent... I am not certain that anyone involved has ever seen a movie, or knows what one is.
  • The movie opens as the drifter "inadvertently" (Araki's word, in the press kit) blows off the head of a Korean convenience store owner... It continues as the "enigmatic Xavier" (I am again quoting from the wonderfully revealing press kit) "has such rotten karma that every time they stop the car for fries and Diet Cokes, someone ends up dying in one gruesome way or another." Wait, there's more: "As the youthful band of outsiders continues their travels through the wasteland of America, Amy finds herself (having sex with) both Jordan and Xavier, forging a triangle of love, sex and desperation too pure for this world." Now let's deconstruct that. (1) The correct word is "its," not "their." (2) "Band of outsiders" is an insider reference to A Band Apart," the name of Quentin Tarantino's production company, which itself is a pun on the title of a film by Godard. (3) Is it remotely possible that America is a "wasteland" because Amy, Jordan and Xavier kill someone every time they stop for fries and a soda? That wouldn't have occurred to this movie. (4) The clause "someone ends up dying" is a passive way to avoid saying that the three characters kill them. This is precisely the same construction used by many serial killers and heads of state, who use language to separate themselves from the consequences of their actions.
  • This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels... The day may come when "Freddy Got Fingered" is seen as a milestone of neo-surrealism. The day may never come when it is seen as funny.
  • Guyana-Cult of the Damned has crawled out from under a rock and into local theaters, and will do nicely as this week's example of the depths to which people will plunge in search of a dollar. The movie is a gruesome version of the Jonestown massacre of 1978, so badly written and directed it illustrates a simple rule of movie exhibition: If a film is nauseating and reprehensible enough in the first place, it doesn't matter how badly it's made - people will go anyway.
  • I do not often attribute motives to audience members, nor do I try to read their minds, but the people who were sitting around me on Monday morning made it easy for me to know what they were thinking. They talked out loud. And if they seriously believed the things they were saying, they were vicarious sex criminals.
  • This is a plot, if ever there was one, to illustrate King Lear's complaint, "As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods; They kill us for their sport." I am aware this is the second time in two weeks I have been compelled to quote Lear, but there are times when Eminem simply will not do.
  • Little Indian, Big City is one of the worst movies ever made. I detested every moronic minute of it...if you, under any circumstances, see Little Indian, Big City, I will never let you read one of my reviews again.
  • Mad Dog Time is the first movie I have seen that does not improve on the sight of a blank screen viewed for the same length of time. Oh, I've seen bad movies before. But they usually made me care about how bad they were. Watching Mad Dog Time is like waiting for the bus in a city where you're not sure they have a bus line...Mad Dog Time should be cut into free ukulele picks for the poor.
  • Mandingo is racist trash, obscene in its manipulation of human beings and feelings, and excruciating to sit through in an audience made up largely of children, as I did last Saturday afternoon. The film has an "R" rating, which didn't keep many kids out, since most came with their parents... if [Chicago] believes Mandingo should be shown to children, then there are no possible standards left and the only thing to do is transfer the censors to the parks department, where they can supervise paper‑plate‑ throwing contests.
  • 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.
  • The vast majority of the members of all religions, I believe and would argue, don't want to kill anybody. They want to love and care for their families, find decent work that sustains life and comfort, live in peace and get along with their neighbors. It is a deviant streak in some humans, I suspect, that drives them toward self-righteous violence, and uses religion as a convenient alibi... I am trying as hard as I can to imagine the audience for this movie. Every time I make any progress, it scares me.
  • The movie is an exhausted retread of the old campus romance gag where the pretty girl almost believes the lies of the reprehensible schemer, instead of trusting the nice guy who loves her. The only originality the movie brings to this formula is to make it incomprehensible, through the lurching incompetence of its story structure. Details are labored while the big picture remains unpainted... I was appalled by the poverty of its imagination.
  • Sour Grapes is a comedy about things that aren't funny. It reminded me of Crash, an erotic thriller about things no one finds erotic. The big difference is that David Cronenberg, who made Crash, knew that people were not turned on by auto accidents. Larry David, who wrote and directed Sour Grapes, apparently thinks people are amused by cancer, accidental castration, racial stereotypes and bitter family feuds... The more I think of it, the more Sour Grapes really does resemble Crash (except that Crash was not a bad film). Both movies are like watching automobile accidents. Only one was intended to be.
  • I like good horror movies. They can exorcise our demons. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre doesn't want to exorcise anything. It wants to tramp crap through our imaginations and wipe its feet on our dreams. I think of filmgoers on a date, seeing this movie and then — what? I guess they'll have to laugh at it, irony being a fashionable response to the experience of being had. ... Do yourself a favor. There are a lot of good movies playing right now that can make you feel a little happier, smarter, sexier, funnier, more excited — or more scared, if that's what you want. This is not one of them. Don't let it kill 98 minutes of your life.
  • I had a hard time watching Wolf Creek. It is a film with one clear purpose: To establish the commercial credentials of its director by showing his skill at depicting the brutal tracking, torture and mutilation of screaming young women. When the killer severs the spine of one of his victims and calls her "a head on a stick," I wanted to walk out of the theater and keep on walking.

Half-star reviews[edit]

  • If you plan to miss this movie, better miss it quickly; I doubt if it'll be around to miss for long.
  • The dialogue consists almost entirely of terse screams: Watch it! Incoming! Move! Look out! Fire! Move! The only characters I re­member having four sentences in a row are the anchors on cable news. ... Young men: If you attend this crap with friends who admire it, tactfully inform them they are idiots. Young women: If your date likes this movie, tell him you've been thinking it over, and you think you should consider spending some time apart.
  • Battlefield Earth is like taking a bus trip with someone who has needed a bath for a long time. It's not merely bad; it's unpleasent in a hostile way. ... Some movies run off the rails. This one is like the train crash in The Fugitive. I watched it in mounting gloom, realizing I was witnessing something historic, a film that for decades to come will be the punch line of jokes about bad movies.
  • The movie is being revived around the country for midnight cult showings. Midnight is not late enough.
  • Boat Trip arrives preceded by publicity saying many homosexuals have been outraged by the film. Now that it's in theaters, everybody else has a chance to join them. Not that the film is outrageous. That would be asking too much. It is dim-witted, unfunny, too shallow to be offensive, and way too conventional to use all of those people standing around in the background wearing leather and chains and waiting hopefully for their cues. This is a movie made for nobody, about nothing.
  • Nobody is going to Bolero for the plot anyway. They're going for the Good Parts. There are two Good Parts, not counting her naked ride on horseback, which was the only scene in the movie that had me wondering how she did it. The real future of Bolero is in home cassette rentals, where your fast forward and instant replay controls will supply the editing job the movie so desperately needs.
  • Only enormously talented people could have made Death to Smoochy. Those with lesser gifts would have lacked the nerve to make a film so bad, so miscalculated, so lacking any connection with any possible audience.
  • This movie is not merely bad, but incompetent. I get tapes in the mail from 10th graders that are better made than this... I have often asked myself, "What would it look like if the characters in a movie were animatronic puppets created by aliens with an imperfect mastery of human behavior?" Now I know.
  • "This sucks on so many levels." — Dialogue from "Jason X" Rare for a movie to so frankly describe itself. "Jason X" sucks on the levels of storytelling, character development, suspense, special effects, originality, punctuation, neatness and aptness of thought.
  • The movie stars six teenage characters who have been marketed on TV and in toy stores. They have names, but no discernible personalities. None of them ever says anything more interesting than "You guys!" As teenagers, they are skilled in-line skaters and karate fighters, but they don't get their real powers until they turn into faceless clones in Power Rangers uniforms with plastic masks and helmets. Is that the message? Faceless conformity is the way to success? Certainly the Rangers are not individuals in or out of uniform, but I wonder if they don't represent a triumph of merchandising over creativity. Children's heroes have traditionally been individualistic and eccentric. The Rangers are not, properly speaking, even characters. They are color-coded products...Paging through the movie's press kit, I came across this quote attributed to Amy Jo Johnson, who plays Kimberly, the Pink Power Ranger: " `Mighty Morphin Power Rangers™: The Movie' is a mix between Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz. " I wonder if Amy Jo actually said "TM" when she was delivering that wonderfully fresh and spontaneous quote, which is so much more involved than anything she says in the movie. More to the point, I wonder if she has ever seen "Star Wars" or "The Wizard of Oz."
  • Parents: If you encounter teenagers who say they liked this movie, do not let them date your children.
  • Some of the acting is better than the film deserves. Make that all of the acting. Actually, the film stock itself is better than the film deserves. You know when sometimes a film catches fire inside a projector? If it happened with this one, I suspect the audience might cheer.
  • Rollerball is an incoherent mess, a jumble of footage in search of plot, meaning, rhythm and sense. There are bright colors and quick movement on the screen, which we can watch as a visual pattern that, in entertainment value, falls somewhere between a kaleidoscope and a lava lamp.
  • Saving Silverman is so bad in so many different ways that perhaps you should see it, as an example of the lowest slopes of the bell-shaped curve. This is the kind of movie that gives even its defenders fits of desperation. Consider my friend James Berardinelli, the best of the Web-based critics. No doubt 10 days of oxygen deprivation at the Sundance Film Festival helped inspire his three-star review, in which he reports optimistically, "Saving Silverman" has its share of pratfalls and slapstick moments, but there's almost no flatulence." Here's a critical rule of thumb: You know you're in trouble when you're reduced to praising a movie for its absence of fart jokes, and have to add "almost"... as for Neil Diamond, Saving Silverman is his first appearance in a fiction film since The Jazz Singer, and one can only marvel that he waited 20 years to appear in a second film, and found one even worse than his first one.
  • The Spice Girls are easier to tell apart than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but that is small consolation: What can you say about five women whose principal distinguishing characteristic is that they have different names? They occupy Spice World as if they were watching it: They're so detached they can't even successfully lip-synch their own songs. During a rehearsal scene, their director tells them, with such truth that we may be hearing a secret message from the screenwriter, "That was absolutely perfect — without being actually any good." Spice World is obviously intended as a ripoff of A Hard Day's Night which gave The Beatles to the movies...the huge difference, of course, is that the Beatles were talented — while, let's face it, the Spice Girls could be duplicated by any five women under the age of 30 standing in line at Dunkin' Donuts.
  • It amazes me that filmmakers will still film, and audiences will still watch, relationships so bankrupt of human feeling that the characters could be reading dialogue written by a computer.

One-star reviews[edit]

  • I remember when hard-core first became commonplace, and there were discussions about what it would be like if a serious director ever made a porn movie. The answer, judging by Anatomy of Hell, is that the audience would decide they did not require such a serious director after all.
  • Here it is at last, the first 150-minute trailer. Armageddon is cut together like its own highlights. Take almost any 30 seconds at random, and you'd have a TV ad. The movie is an assault on the eyes, the ears, the brain, common sense, and the human desire to be entertained. No matter what they're charging to get in, it's worth more to get out.
  • So OK. Let’s say you know the novel, you agree with Ayn Rand, you’re an objectivist or a libertarian, and you’ve been waiting eagerly for this movie. Man, are you going to get a letdown. It’s not enough that a movie agree with you, in however an incoherent and murky fashion. It would help if it were like, you know, entertaining?
  • Blue Velvet contains scenes of such raw emotional energy that it's easy to understand why some critics have hailed it as a masterpiece. A film this painful and wounding has to be given special consideration...What's worse? Slapping somebody around, or standing back and finding the whole thing funny?
  • The Bucket List is a movie about two old codgers who are nothing like people, both suffering from cancer that is nothing like cancer, and setting off on adventures that are nothing like possible. I urgently advise hospitals: Do not make the DVD available to your patients; there may be an outbreak of bedpans thrown at TV screens.
  • The director, whose name is Pitof, was probably issued with two names at birth and would be wise to use the other one on his next project.
  • I've been reviewing movies for a long time, and I can't think of one that more dramatically shoots itself in the foot.
  • The result is a horrible mess of a movie, without shape, trajectory or purpose — a one joke movie, if it had one joke. The two characters wander witlessly past the bizarre backdrops of Las Vegas (some real, some hallucinated, all interchangeable) while zonked out of their minds. Humor depends on attitude. Beyond a certain point, you don't have an attitude, you simply inhabit a state. I've heard a lot of funny jokes about drunks and druggies, but these guys are stoned beyond comprehension, to the point where most of their dialog could be paraphrased as "eh?"... As for Depp, what was he thinking he made this movie? He was once in trouble for trashing a New York hotel room, just like the heroes of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. What was that? Research? After River Phoenix died of an overdose outside Depp's club, you wouldn't think Depp would see much humor in this story — but then, of course, there *isn't* much humor in this story.
  • I Am Curious (Yellow) is not merely not erotic. It is anti-erotic. Two hours of this movie will drive thoughts of sex out of your mind for weeks. See the picture and buy twin beds... I think there actually is a director in Sweden who is dull and square enough to seriously consider this an art of moviemaking.
    • Review of I Am Curious (Yellow) (23 September 1969)
  • The best shot in this film is the first one. Not a good sign... After the screening was over and the lights went up, I observed a couple of my colleagues in deep and earnest conversation, trying to resolve twists in the plot. They were applying more thought to the movie than the makers did. A critic's mind is a terrible thing to waste.
  • They say state-of-the-art special effects can create the illusion of anything on the screen, and now we have proof: It's possible for the Jim Henson folks and Industrial Light and Magic to put their heads together and come up with the most repulsive single creature in the history of special effects, and I am not forgetting the Chucky doll or the desert intestine from Star wars. To see the snowman is to dislike the snowman. It doesn't look like a snowman, anyway.
  • In this business one becomes a connoisseur. I can now see that [Jim] Carrey is a virtuoso, [Chris] Farley is at least hard-working, [Adam] Sandler is hopeless and Pauly Shore bypasses all categories to achieve a kind of transcendent fingernails-on-the-blackboard effect. His appeal must be limited to people whose self-esteem and social skills are so damaged that they find humor, or at least relief, in at last encountering a movie character less successful than themselves.
  • ...in New Year's Eve, we look out over the surging throng of ecstatic celebrants, and the sea of humanity is blue. They're all wearing freebie hats from Nivea skin creme. No hats for the Knicks, Budweiser or I Heart [sic] New York. All Nivea skin creme. Countless hats of Nivea blue. I've heard of product placement, but this is carpet bombing.
  • Terri (Hilary Duff)'s new roommate is Denise (Dana Davis), who plans to work hard for a scholarship, and resents Terri as a distraction. Sizing up Terri's wardrobe and her smile, she tells her: "You're like some kind of retro Brady Buncher." I hate it when a movie contains its own review.
  • Reader, I must confess that while attending the sneak preview with its overwhelmingly female audience, I was gob-smacked by the delightful cleavage on display. Do women wear their lowest-cut frocks for each other?
  • Remember the words George Carlin said could not be said on TV? There's now a kind of movie that cannot be made without using all of them except one. Even the online trailer may startle you. It's one of those adults-only Red Band Trailers which you have to give your age in order to view. I lied about my age. Nobody under 17 would ever do that.
  • It's the worst kind of bad film: the kind that gets you all worked up and then lets you down, instead of just being lousy from the first shot.
  • But now here is the director's cut, which is 20 minutes shorter, lops off a couple of characters and a few of the infinite subplots, and is even more of a mess. I recommend that Kelly keep right on cutting until he whittles it down to a ukulele pick.
  • If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination... The movie has been signed by Michael Bay. This is the same man who directed The Rock in 1996. Now he has made Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Faust made a better deal.
  • The characters in this movie should be arrested for loitering with intent to moan. Never have teenagers been in greater need of a jump-start. Granted some of them are more than 100 years old, but still: their charisma is by Madame Tussaud. The Twilight Saga: New Moon takes the tepid achievement of Twilight (2008), guts it, and leaves it for undead. You know you're in trouble with a sequel when the word of mouth advises you to see the first movie twice instead. Obviously the characters all have. Long opening stretches of this film make utterly no sense unless you walk in knowing the first film, and hopefully both Stephanie Meyer novels, by heart. Edward and Bella spend murky moments glowering at each other and thinking, So, here we are again.
  • Wild Wild West is a comedy dead zone. You stare in disbelief as scenes flop and die. The movie is all concept and no content; the elaborate special effects are like watching money burn on the screen. You know something has gone wrong when a story is about two heroes in the Old West, and the last shot is of a mechanical spider riding off into the sunset.
  • Your Highness is a juvenile excrescence that feels like the work of 11-year-old boys in love with dungeons, dragons, warrior women, pot, boobs and four-letter words. One of the heroes even wears the penis of a minotaur on a string around his neck. I hate it when that happens.
  • There have been articles lately asking why the United States is so hated in some parts of the world. As this week's Exhibit A from Hollywood, I offer Zoolander, a comedy about a plot to assassinate the prime minister of Malaysia because of his opposition to child labor. You might want to read that sentence twice. The logic: Child labor is necessary to the economic health of the fashion industry, and so its opponents must be eliminated...if the Malaysians made a comedy about the assassination of the president of the United States because of his opposition to slavery, it would seem approximately as funny to us as Zoolander would seem to them.
    • Review of Zoolander (28 September 2001)

One-and-a-half star reviews[edit]

  • Basic Instinct 2 is not good in any rational or defensible way, but not bad in irrational and indefensible ways. I savored the icy abstraction of the modern architecture, which made the people look like they came with the building. I grinned at that absurd phallic skyscraper that really does exist in London. I liked the recklessness of the sex-and-speed sequence that opens the movie (and, curiously, looks to have been shot in Chicago). I could appreciate the plot once I accepted that it was simply jerking my chain. You can wallow in it ... Footnote No. 2: My 1-1/2-star rating is like a cold shower, designed to take my mind away from giving it four stars.
  • The movie stars Michelle Pfeiffer as LouAnne Johnson... [h]er teaching methods are inventive. She bribes them with candy bars and free trips to amusement parks, and involves them in the words of that important poet, Bob Dylan (the Tambourine Man might have been a drug dealer!). Soon they're in the school library, finding connections between Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas... [w]hat, exactly, will these disadvantaged inner-city kids accomplish by being bribed with candy bars and the "relevancy" of Bob Dylan? Can they read and write? Can they compete in the job market? An educational system that has brought them to the point we observe in the first classroom scene has already failed them so miserably that all of Miss Johnson's karate lessons are not going to be much help.
  • In the upstairs bedroom, old Ann dies very slowly, remembering the events of the long-ago wedding night and the next morning...She is attended by a nurse with an Irish accent (Eileen Atkins), who sometimes prompts her: "Remember a happy time!" Dissolve to Ann's memory of a happy time. It is so mundane that if it qualifies as a high point in her life, it compares with Paris Hilton remembering a good stick of gum.
  • There's one thing to be said for a remake of a 1984 movie that uses the original's screenplay. This 2011 version is so similar — sometimes song for song and line for line — that I was wickedly tempted to reprint my 1984 review, word for word. But That Would be Wrong.
  • Here is a Civil War movie that Trent Lott might enjoy. Less enlightened than Gone with the Wind, obsessed with military strategy, impartial between South and North, religiously devout, it waits 70 minutes before introducing the first of its two speaking roles for African Americans; "Stonewall" Jackson assures his black cook that the South will free him, and the cook looks cautiously optimistic. If World War II were handled this way, there'd be hell to pay.
  • Going to see Godzilla at the Palais of the Cannes Film Festival is like attending a satanic ritual in St. Peter's Basilica. It's a rebuke to the faith that the building represents. Cannes touchingly adheres to a belief that film can be intelligent, moving and grand. Godzilla is a big, ugly, ungainly device to give teenagers the impression they are seeing a movie. It was the festival's closing film, coming at the end like the horses in a parade, perhaps for the same reason.
  • Immortals is without doubt the best-looking awful movie you will ever see. Eiko Ishioka's costume designs alone deserve an Oscar nomination. "They weren't at all historically accurate," grumbled a woman in the elevator after the sneak preview, as if lots of documentation exists about the wardrobes of the gods. She added: "I guess that's what we deserve for using free tickets we got at a Blackhawks game."
  • I saw The Lonely Guy all by myself. It was one of those Saturday afternoons where the snow is coming down gray and mean, and you can't even get a decent recorded message on the answering machines of strangers ... "Good luck," an usher told me. "You're going to need it." He was right ... The Lonely Guy is the kind of movie that seems to have been made to play in empty theaters on overcast January afternoons ... [It] is the kind of movie that inspires you to distract yourself by counting the commercial products visible on the screen, and speculating about whether their manufacturers paid fees to have them worked into the movie. I counted two Diet 7-Ups, two Tabs, and Steve Martin.
  • I was noodling around Rotten Tomatoes, trying to determine who played the bank's security chief, and noticed the movie had not yet been reviewed by anybody. Hold on! In the "Forum" section for this movie, "islandhome" wrote at 7:58 a.m. Jan. 8: "review of this movie ... tonight i'll post." At 11:19 a.m. Jan. 10, "islandhome" was finally back with the promised review. It is written without capital letters, flush left like a poem, and I quote it verbatim, spelling and all:
hello sorry i slept when i got back
well it was kinda fun
it could never happen in the way it was portraid
but what ever its a movie
for the girls most will like it
and the men will not mind it much
i thought it was going to be kinda like how to beat the high cost of living
kinda the same them but not as much fun
ill give it a 4 0ut of 10
I read this twice, three times. I had been testing out various first sentences for my own review, but somehow the purity and directness of islandhome's review undercut me. It is so final. "for the girls most will like it/and the men will not mind it much." How can you improve on that? It's worthy of Charles Bukowski. ...The bottom line is some girls will like it, the men not so much, and I give it 1½ stars out of 4.
  • Clerks spoke with the sure, clear voice of an original filmmaker. In Mallrats the voice is muffled, and we sense instead advice from the tired, the establishment, the timid and other familiar Hollywood executive types. The year that Clerks played at the Cannes Film Festival, I was the chairman of a panel discussion of independent filmmakers. Most of them talked about their battles to stay free from Hollywood's playsafe strategies. But Kevin Smith cheerfully said he'd be happy to do whatever the studios wanted, if they'd pay for his films. At the time, I thought he was joking.
  • We can laugh at comedies like this for two reasons: Because we feel superior to the characters, or because we pity or like them. I do not much like laughing down at people, which is why the comedies of Adam Sandler make me squirmy (most people, I know, laugh because they like him). In the case of Napoleon Dynamite, I certainly don't like him, but then the movie makes no attempt to make him likable. Truth is, it doesn't even try to be a comedy. It tells his story and we are supposed to laugh because we find humor the movie pretends it doesn't know about.
  • They say baseball is popular because everyone thinks they can play it. Similar reasoning may explain the popularity of the Olsen twins: Teenage girls love them because they believe they could be them. What, after all, do Mary-Kate and Ashley do in New York Minute that could not be done by any reasonably presentable female adolescent? Their careers are founded not on what they do, but on the vicarious identification of their fans, who enjoy seeing two girls making millions for doing what just about anybody could do.
  • Pearl Harbor is a two-hour movie squeezed into three hours, about how on December 7, 1941, the Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle. Its centerpiece is 40 minutes of redundant special effects, surrounded by a love story of stunning banality. The film has been directed without grace, vision, or originality, and although you may walk out quoting lines of dialog, it will not be because you admire them.
  • Attending this new version, I felt oddly as if I were watching a provincial stock company doing the best it could without the Broadway cast. I was reminded of the child prodigy who was summoned to perform for a famous pianist. The child climbed onto the piano stool and played something by Chopin with great speed and accuracy. The great musician then patted the child on the head and said, 'You can play the notes. Someday, you may be able to play the music.'
  • Here's a movie that stretches out every moment for more than it's worth, until even the moments of inspiration seem forced. Since the basic idea of the movie is a good one and there are talented people in the cast, what we have here is a film shot down by its own forced and mannered style.
  • I know aliens from other worlds are required to arrive in New Mexico, but why stay there?

Two star reviews[edit]

  • I have always had my doubts about any form of divine intervention in sports contests. The power of prayer may be remarkable in many other arenas, but why should God want my team to win instead of the other side? Isn't it insulting to request God to even take an interest in baseball?
  • Since the scenes where they're together are so much less convincing than the ones where they fall apart, watching the movie is like being on a double-date from hell.
  • We'll probably be debating A Clockwork Orange for a long time — a long, weary and pointless time. The New York critical establishment has guaranteed that for us. They missed the boat on 2001, so maybe they were trying to catch up with Kubrick on this one. Or maybe the news weeklies just needed a good movie cover story for Christmas.
    • Review of A Clockwork Orange (11 February 1972)
  • When the film premiered at Cannes 2003, Lars von Trier was accused of not portraying Americans accurately, but how many movies do? Anything by David Spade come to mind? Von Trier could justifiably make a fantasy about America, even an anti-American fantasy, and produce a good film, but here he approaches the ideological subtlety of a raving prophet on a street corner.
  • The audience I joined was perhaps 80 percent female. I heard some sniffles and glimpsed some tears, and no wonder. Eat Pray Love is shameless wish-fulfillment, a Harlequin novel crossed with a mystic travelogue, and it mercifully reverses the life chronology of many people, which is Love Pray Eat.
  • I know that the real Brockovich liked to dress provocatively; that's her personal style and she's welcome to it. But the Hollywood version makes her look like a miniskirted hooker, with bras that peek cheerfully above her necklines.
  • Why bother to remake Fame if you don't have clue about why the 1980 movie was special? Why take a touching experience and make it into a shallow exercise? Why begin with a R-rated look at plausible kids with real problems and tame it into a PG-rated after-school special? Why cast actors who are sometimes too old and experienced to play seniors, let alone freshmen?
  • By the end of this long film, I would have traded any given gladiatorial victory for just one shot of blue skies... Gladiator lacks joy. It employs depression as a substitute for personality, and believes that if the characters are bitter and morose enough, we won't notice how dull they are.
  • It was W. C. Fields who hated to appear in the same scene with a child, a dog, or a plunging neckline - because nobody in the audience would be looking at him. Jennifer Aniston has the same problem in this movie even when she's in scenes all by herself.
  • You used to be able to depend on a bad film being poorly made. No longer. The Punisher: War Zone [sic] is one of the best-made bad movies I've seen...Its only flaw is that it's disgusting.
  • Consider an opening musical number set in a maternity ward, where Tommy Pickles and his friends Chuckie Finster and Phil and Lil DeVille are hoping for a look at Tommy's new kid brother, Dilbert. (Dil Pickles — get it? For Rugrats fans, this is humor of the highest order.) They wake up the babies, who do a number that seems inspired by Bubsy Berkeley, except that the Berkeley girls never had to supply their own dancing waters, if you get my drift.
  • Showgirls is the first big-budget "adults only" movie in a few years and, to be sure, it contains so much nudity that the sexy parts are when the girls put on their clothes. It contains no true eroticism, however, and that's why I think it reflects a grounding in sexual fantasy: Eroticism requires a mental connection between two people, while masturbation requires only the other person's image.
  • Troy is based on the epic poem The Iliad by Homer, according to the credits. Homer's estate should sue.
  • Philip Kaufman's Twisted walks like a thriller and talks like a thriller, but it squawks like a turkey.
    But back to deus ex machina. This is a phrase you will want to study and master, not merely to amaze friends during long bus journeys but because it so perfectly describes what otherwise might take you thousands of words. Imagine a play on a stage. The hero is in a fix. The dragon is breathing fire, his sword is broken, his leg is broken, his spirit is broken, and the playwright's imagination is broken. Suddenly there is the offstage noise of the grinding of gears, and invisible machinery lowers a god onto the stage, who slays the dragon, heals the hero, and fires the playwright. He is the "god from the machine."
  • 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.
  • There are few lonelier sights than a good comedian being funny in a movie that doesn't know what funny is.

Two-and-a-half star reviews[edit]

  • It's the kind of movie where you ask people how they liked it, and they say, "Well, it was well made," and then they wince.
  • Is that a sacrilege that I praise a Holocaust movie [Schindler's List] for being entertaining? The word doesn't imply that a movie need be cheerful. In my mind, entertainment in this genre springs from characters who are brought to full life, who we care about and who are set in a powerful story. My motto: "No good movie is depressing. All bad movies are depressing."
  • A movie should present its characters with a problem and then watch them solve it, not without difficulty. So says an old and reliable screenplay formula. Countless movies have been made about a boy and a girl who have a problem (they haven't slept with each other) and after difficulties (family, war, economic, health, rival lover, stupid misunderstanding) they solve it by sleeping with each other. Now we have a movie about two homosexuals that follows the same reliable convention.
  • "The Lucky One" is at its heart a romance novel, elevated however by Nicholas Sparks' persuasive storytelling. Readers don't read his books because they're true, but because they ought to be true. You can easily imagine how many ways this story would probably go wrong in real life, but who wants to see a movie where a Marine leans over to pick up a photo and is blown up? And a mom trying to raise her son and feed lots of hungry dogs while her abusive ex-husband gets drunk and hangs around? That kind of stuff is too close to life.
  • I could list some Japanese films illustrating this, but the last thing the audience for Memoirs of a Geisha wants to see is a more truthful film with less gorgeous women and shabbier production values.
  • It's the kind of movie home video was invented for: Not worth the trip to the theater, but slam it into the VCR and you get your rental's worth.
  • I do not demand that all movies have a story to pull us from beginning to end, and indeed one of the charms of The Big Lebowski, the Coens' previous film, is how its stoned hero loses track of the thread of his own life. But with O Brother, Where Are Thou? I had the sense of invention set adrift; of a series of bright ideas wondering why they had all been invited to the same film.
  • It's in the action scenes that things fall apart. Consider the scene where Spider-Man is given a cruel choice between saving Mary Jane or a cable car full of school kids. He tries to save both, so that everyone dangles from webbing that seems about to pull loose. The visuals here could have given an impression of the enormous weights and tensions involved, but instead the scene seems more like a bloodless storyboard of the idea. In other CGI scenes, Spidey swoops from great heights to street level and soars back up among the skyscrapers again with such dizzying speed that it seems less like a stunt than like a fast-forward version of a stunt.
  • To know me is to love me. This cliche is popular for a reason, because most of us, I imagine, believe deep in our hearts that if anyone truly got to know us, they'd truly get to love us - or at least know why we're the way we are. The problem in life, maybe the central problem, is that so few people ever seem to have sufficient curiosity to do the job on us that we know we deserve.
  • This is a movie that comes in two parts: It knows exactly what to do with special effects, but doesn't have a clue as to how two people in love might act and talk and think.
    Movies like Top Gun are hard to review because the good parts are so good and the bad parts are so relentless. The dogfights are absolutely the best since Clint Eastwood's electrifying aerial scenes in Firefox. But look out for the scenes where the people talk to one another.
  • You want loud, dumb, skillful, escapist entertainment? Twister works. You want to think? Think twice about seeing it.

Three star reviews[edit]

  • I wonder who will find the film more uncomfortable - men or women? Both will recoil from the brutality of the scenes of the assault. But for some men, the movie will reveal a truth that most women already know. It is that verbal sexual harassment, whether crudely in a saloon back room or subtly in an everyday situation, is a form of violence - one that leaves no visible marks but can make its victims feel unable to move freely and casually in society.
  • As I swim through the summer tide of vulgarity, I find that's what I'm looking for: Movies that at least feel affection for their characters. Raunchy is OK. Cruel is not.
  • One hopeful sign that the filmmakers can learn and grow is that the sequel does not contain a single pie, if you know what I mean.
  • The movie cheerfully offends all civilized notions of taste, decorum, manners and hygiene... is the movie vulgar? Vulgarity is when we don't laugh. When we laugh, it's merely human nature.
  • The beautiful Monique insists on joining their expedition and cannot be dissuaded; we think at first she has a nefarious motive, but no, she's probably taken a class in screenplay construction and knows that the film requires a sexy female lead. This could be the first case in cinematic history of a character voluntarily entering a movie because of the objective fact that she is required.
  • ...it is widely but wrongly believed that Beavis and Butt-Head celebrates its characters, and applauds their sublime lack of values, taste and intelligence. I've never thought so. I believe Mike Judge would rather die than share a taxi ride to the airport with his characters — that for him, B&B function like Dilbert's co-workers in the Scott Adams universe. They are a target for his anger against the rising tide of stupidity.
  • This sort of scenario has happened, I imagine, millions of times. It has rarely happened in a nicer, sweeter, more gentle way than in Richard Linklater's "Before Sunrise," which I could call a "Love Affair" for Generation X, except that Jesse and Celine stand outside their generation, and especially outside its boring insistence on being bored.
    The R rating for this film, based on a few four-letter words, is entirely unjustified. It is an ideal film for teenagers.
  • Censors feel they are safe from objectionable material but must protect others who are not as smart or moral. The same impulse tempts the reviewer of 'The Believer'... If the wrong people get the wrong message - well, there has never been any shortage of wrong messages. Or wrong people.
  • In Blue Crush, we meet three Hawaiian surfers who work as hotel maids, live in a grotty rental, and are raising the kid sister of one of them. Despite this near-poverty, they look great; there is nothing like a tan and a bikini to overcome class distinctions.
  • Much has been written about Generation X and the films about it. Clerks is so utterly authentic that its heroes have never heard of their generation. When they think of "X," it's on the way to the video store.
  • This film is based on an actual 2004 event that took place at a McDonald's in Mount Washington, Ky. Google it and you'll find most of the same details. If you're not one of the film's walk-outs, you'll discover at the end that 70 similar deceptions have occurred in the United States... If the stunt worked 70 times, they must prove something — perhaps that we are afraid of authority. I know that when a traffic cop pulls me over, I'm frightened — scared enough that I drive safely and am almost never pulled over.
  • ...If there's one thing I've learned in this life, it's that you never say no to an old gypsy woman with a blind eye and leprous fingernails.
  • I read all the movie reviews, especially those of Ebert, a graceful and witty prose stylist with profound erudition, whose reviews are worth reading just for themselves, whether or not I have any intention of viewing the movie ... Ebert, the smart and handsome one, gave thumbs up to my first movie [Garfield: The Movie], but [Richard] Roeper, the other one, gave thumbs down and was particularly unkind. He went on forever attacking Ebert for liking Garfield. This from a man with enough taste to praise Duma. How very disappointing. One of Roeper's complaints was that I was animated and all of the other characters in the movie were "real." Do you have any idea how a statement like that hurts an actor who has worked all of his life as a media cat? Yes, Richard Roeper, I was animated. Read my lips: I am a character in a comic strip.
  • I arrive at the end of this review having done my duty as a critic. I have described the movie accurately and you have a good idea what you are in for if you go to see it. Most of you will not. I cannot argue with you. Some of you will — the brave and the curious. You embody the spirit of the man who first wondered what it would taste like to eat an oyster.
  • It's strange: We leave the movie having enjoyed its conclusion so much that we almost forgot our earlier reservations. But they were there, and they were real.
  • You should never send an expert to a movie about his specialty. Boxers hate boxing movies. Space buffs said 'Apollo 13' showed the wrong side of the moon. The British believe Mel Gibson's scholarship was faulty in 'Braveheart' merely because some of the key characters hadn't been born at the time of the story. 'Hackers' is, I have no doubt, deeply dubious in the computer science department. While it is no doubt true that in real life no hacker could do what the characters in this movie do, it is no doubt equally true that what hackers can do would not make a very entertaining movie.
  • Most people choose movies that provide exactly what they expect, and tell them things they already know. Others are more curious. We are put on this planet only once, and to limit ourselves to the familiar is a crime against our minds.
  • The charm of a Kevin Smith movie is that it assumes you do not enter the theater as a blank slate. "Chasing Amy" assumes a little knowledge of the world of serious comic books and collectors; "Dogma" required you to know something about Catholic theology, and "Jay and Silent Bob" has moments like the one where the Affleck character defines the Internet for Jay: "It's a place used the world over where people can come together to bitch about movies and share pornography together." This is a much more sophisticated idea of the Net than we find in high-tech cyberthrillers, where the Net is a place that makes your computer beep a lot. Whether you will like "Jay and Silent Bob" depends on who you are. Most movies are made for everybody. Kevin Smith's movies are either made specifically for you, or specifically not made for you. If you read this review without a smile or a nod of recognition, I would recommend "Rush Hour 2," which is for everybody or nobody, you tell me.
  • These days too many children's movies are infected by the virus of Winning, as if kids are nothing more than underage pro athletes, and the values of Vince Lombardi prevail: It's not how you play the game, but whether you win or lose. This is a movie that breaks with that tradition, that allows its kids to be kids, that shows them in the insular world of imagination and dreaming that children create entirely apart from adult domains and values. There was a moment in the film when Rodriguez hit a line drive directly at the pitcher's mound, and I ducked and held up my mitt, and then I realized I didn't have a mitt, and it was then I also realized how completely this movie had seduced me with its memories of what really matters when you are 12.
  • I recently published a book about movies I hated, and people have been asking me which reviews are harder to write — those about great movies, or those about terrible ones. The answer is neither. The most unreviewable movies are those belonging to the spoof genre — movies like Airplane! and The Naked Gun and all the countless spin-offs and retreads of the same basic idea... the bottom line in reviewing a movie like this is, does it work? Is it funny? Yes, it is. Not funny with the shocking impact of Airplane! which had the advantage of breaking new ground. But also not a tired wheeze like some of the lesser and later Leslie Nielsen films. To get your money's worth, you need to be familiar with the various teenage horror franchises, and if you are, Scary Movie delivers the goods.
  • The star rating system is relative, not absolute. When you ask a friend if Hellboy is any good, you're not asking if it's any good compared to Mystic River, you're asking if it's any good compared to The Punisher. And my answer would be, on a scale of one to four, if Superman (1978) is four, then Hellboy is three and The Punisher is two. In the same way, if American Beauty gets four stars, then [The United States of] Leland clocks in at about two.
  • Khan is played as a cauldron of resentment by Ricardo Montalban, and his performance is so strong that he helps illustrate a general principle involving not only Star Trek but Star Wars and all the epic serials, especially the James Bond movies: Each film is only as good as its villain. Since the heroes and the gimmicks tend to repeat from film to film, only a great villain can transform a good try into a triumph.
  • Wild Things is lurid trash, with a plot so twisted they're still explaining it during the closing titles. It's like a three-way collision between a softcore sex film, a soap opera and a B-grade noir. I liked it. Movies such as this either entertain or offend audiences; there's no neutral ground. Either you're a connoisseur of melodramatic comic vulgarity, or you're not. You know who you are. I don't want to get any postcards telling me this movie is in bad taste. I'm warning you: It is in bad taste. Bad taste elevated to the level of demented sleaze.

Three-and-a-half star reviews[edit]

  • Burt and Verona are two characters rarely seen in the movies: thirtysomething, educated, healthy, self-employed, gentle, thoughtful, whimsical, not neurotic and really truly in love. Their great concern is finding the best place and way to raise their child, who is a bun still in the oven. For every character like this I’ve seen in the last 12 months, I’ve seen 20, maybe 30, mass murderers.
  • Occasionally an unsuspecting innocent will stumble into a movie like this and send me an anguished postcard, asking how I could possibly give a favorable review to such trash. My stock response is Ebert's Law, which reads: A movie is not about what it is about. It is about how it is about it.
  • Rarely has a movie this expensive provided so many quotable lines.
  • Anna’s reaction is more complex than you might imagine, and it’s at such a moment you appreciate the woman in the writer-director’s chair. Women, I suspect, are more likely than men to view sex from the over-all perspective of what we may call their lives. In a country like Saudi Arabia, whose citizens express discomfort about men and women even attending movies together, I have little doubt which gender is more concerned.
  • [W]hat Husbands and Wives argues is that many "rational" relationships are actually not as durable as they seem, because somewhere inside every person is a child crying me! me! me! We say we want the other person to be happy. What we mean is, we want them to be happy with us, just as we are, on our terms... Beneath the urgency of all the older characters - both men, both women, and even the older dating partners they experiment with - is the realization that life is short, that time is running out, that life sells you a romantic illusion and neglects to tell you that you can't have it, because when you take any illusion and make it flesh, its hair begins to fall out, and it has B.O., and it asks you what your sign is. True love involves loving another's imperfections, which are the parts that tend to endure.
  • It is strange how the romances of the teenage years retain a poignancy all through life - how a girl who turns you down when you're 16 retains an aura in your memory even long after you, and she, have ceased to be who you were then. I attended my high school reunion a couple of weeks ago and discovered, in the souvenir booklet assembled by the reunion committee, that one of the girls in my class had a crush on me all those years ago. I would have given a great deal to have had that information at the time.
  • After seeing Orphan, I now realize that Damien of The Omen was a model child. The Demon Seed was a bumper crop. Rosemary would have been happy to have this baby.
    Do not, under any circumstances, take children to see it. Take my word on this.
  • The movie delights me with its cocky confidence that the audience can keep up. Primer is a film for nerds, geeks, brainiacs, Academic Decathlon winners, programmers, philosophers and the kinds of people who have made it this far into the review. It will surely be hated by those who 'go to the movies to be entertained', and embraced and debated by others, who will find it entertains the parts the others do not reach.
It is better to find a partner you can contend with for a lifetime than one who accommodates you because he doesn't really care.
  • Life's missed opportunities, at the end, may seem more poignant to us than those we embraced — because in our imagination they have a perfection that reality can never rival.
  • It considers not only how we relate to others, but how we relate to our ideas of others — so that a completely phony, non-human replica of a dead wife can inspire the same feelings that the wife herself once did. That is a peculiarity of humans: We feel the same emotions for our ideas as we do for the real world, which is why we can cry while reading a book, or fall in love with movie stars. Our idea of humanity bewitches us, while humanity itself stays safely sealed away into its billions of separate containers, or "people."
  • This movie was made by professionals. Do not attempt any of this behavior yourself.
  • Why must a film explain everything? Why must every motivation be spelled out? Aren't many films fundamentally the same film, with only the specifics changed? Aren't many of them telling the same story? Seeking perfection, we see what our dreams and hopes might look like. We realize they come as a gift through no power of our own, and if we lose them, isn't that almost worse than never having had them in the first place?

    There will be many who find "To the Wonder" elusive and too effervescent. They'll be dissatisfied by a film that would rather evoke than supply. I understand that, and I think Terrence Malick does, too. But here he has attempted to reach more deeply than that: to reach beneath the surface, and find the soul in need.

    • Review of To the Wonder (April 6, 2013)
    • NOTE: This was the last movie review Roger Ebert filed.
  • To call it weird would be a cowardly evasion. It is creepy, eccentric, eerie, flaky, freaky, funky, grotesque, inscrutable, kinky, kooky, magical, oddball, spooky, uncanny, uncouth and unearthly. Especially uncouth. What I did was, I typed the word 'weird' and when that wholly failed to evoke the feelings the film stirred in me, I turned to the thesaurus and it suggested the above substitutes - and none of them do the trick, either.
  • [D]oes the real world have any more substance than visions and hallucinations — when we're having them? At any given moment, what's happening in our minds is all and everything that happens.
  • It is an interesting law of romance that a truly strong woman will choose a strong man who disagrees with her over a weak one who goes along. Strength demands intelligence, intelligence demands stimulation, and weakness is boring. It is better to find a partner you can contend with for a lifetime than one who accommodates you because he doesn't really care. ... Sixty seconds of wondering if someone is about to kiss you is more entertaining than 60 minutes of kissing. ... Spill the beans, and the conversation is history. Speak in code, with wit and challenge, and the process of decryption is like foreplay.
  • Is xXx a threat to the Bond franchise? Not a threat so much as a salute. I don't want James Bond to turn crude and muscular on me; I like the suave style. But I like Xander, too, especially since he seems to have studied Bond so very carefully.

Four star reviews[edit]

James Cameron's film has been the subject of relentlessly dubious advance buzz, just as his Titanic was. Once again, he has silenced the doubters by simply delivering an extraordinary film.
  • Why did they give an R rating to a movie perfect for teenagers?
  • This is now. We are filled with optimism and expectation. Why would we want to see such a film, however brilliantly it has been made? I think it's because a film like Amour has a lesson for us that only the cinema can teach: the cinema, with its heedless ability to leap across time and transcend lives and dramatize what it means to be a member of humankind's eternal audience.
  • Watching Avatar, I felt sort of the same as when I saw Star Wars in 1977. That was another movie I walked into with uncertain expectations. James Cameron's film has been the subject of relentlessly dubious advance buzz, just as his Titanic was. Once again, he has silenced the doubters by simply delivering an extraordinary film. There is still at least one man in Hollywood who knows how to spend $250 million, or was it $300 million, wisely.
  • Especially in its opening scenes, Ballast is "slower" and "quieter" than we usually expect. You know what? So is life, most of the time. We don't wake up and immediately start engaging with plot points. But Ballast inexorably grows and deepens and gathers power and absorbs us. I always say I hardly ever cry at sad films, but I sometimes do, just a little, at films about good people.
  • I said this is the Batman movie I've been waiting for; more correctly, this is the movie I did not realize I was waiting for, because I didn't realize that more emphasis on story and character and less emphasis on high-tech action was just what was needed. The movie works dramatically in addition to being an entertainment. There's something to it.
  • Dances With Wolves has the kind of vision and ambition that is rare in movies today. It is not a formula movie, but a thoughtful, carefully observed story. It is a Western at a time when the Western is said to be dead. It asks for our imagination and sympathy. It takes its time, three hours, to unfold. It is a personal triumph for Kevin Costner, the intelligent young actor of Field of Dreams, who directed the film and shows a command of story and of visual structure that is startling; this movie moves so confidently and looks so good it seems incredible that it's a directorial debut.
  • Admiration I did not feel. Sympathy I felt in the sense that I would feel it for a rabid dog, while accepting that it must be destroyed. I do not feel the film provides "a sufficient response to what Hitler actually did," because I feel no film can, and no response would be sufficient. All we can learn from a film like this is that millions of people can be led, and millions more killed, by madness leashed to racism and the barbaric instincts of tribalism.
  • Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking sound bites to support it. "Wouldn't you say," she asked, "that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?" No, I said, I wouldn't say that. "But what about Basketball Diaries?" she asked. "Doesn't that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machine gun?" The obscure 1995 Leonardo Di Caprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office (it grossed only $2.5 million), and it's unlikely the Columbine killers saw it. The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. "Events like this," I said, "if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn't have messed with me. I'll go out in a blaze of glory."
    In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of "explaining" them. I commended the policy at the Sun-Times, where our editor said the paper would no longer feature school killings on Page 1. The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.
  • This is a film about — and also for — not only obsessed clerks in record stores, but the video store clerks who have seen all the movies, and the bookstore employees who have read all the books. Also for bartenders, waitresses, greengrocers in health food stores, kitchen slaves at vegetarian restaurants, the people at GNC who know all the herbs, writers for alternative weeklies, disc jockeys on college stations, salespeople in retro clothing shops, tattoo artists and those they tattoo, poets, artists, musicians, novelists, and the hip, the pierced and the lonely. They may not see themselves but they will recognize people they know.
  • It's so rare to find a movie that doesn't take sides. Conflict is said to be the basis of popular fiction, and yet here is a film that seizes us with its first scene and never lets go, and we feel sympathy all the way through for everyone in it. To be sure, they sometimes do bad things, but the movie understands them and their flaws. Like great fiction, House of Sand and Fog sees into the hearts of its characters, and loves and pities them. ... "House of Sand and Fog" relates not a plot with its contrived ups and downs but a story. A plot is about things that happen. A story is about people who behave.
    To admire a story you must be willing to listen to the people and observe them, and at the end of House of Sand and Fog, we have seen good people with good intentions who have their lives destroyed because they had the bad luck to come across a weak person with shabby desires.
  • Seated in a dark theater, I reached out my hand for that of my wife’s. She and I had visited the same beach and discussed visiting it with our children and grandchildren. An icy finger ran slowly down our spines. Such a connection can be terrifying. What does it mean? We are the playthings of the gods.
  • The R rating refers to Logue's use of vulgarity. It is utterly inexplicable. This is an excellent film for teenagers.
  • Empathy has been in short supply in our nation recently. Our leaders are quick to congratulate us on our own feelings, slow to ask us to wonder how others feel. But maybe times are changing. Every Lee film is an exercise in empathy. He is not interested in congratulating the black people in his audience, or condemning the white ones. He puts human beings on the screen, and asks his audience to walk a little while in their shoes.
  • The Man in the Moon is like a great short story, one of those masterpieces of language and mood where not one word is wrong, or unnecessary. It flows so smoothly from start to finish that it hardly even seems like an ordinary film. Usually I am aware of the screenwriter putting in obligatory scenes. I can hear the machinery grinding. Not this time. Although, in retrospect, I can see how carefully the plot was put together, how meticulously each event was prepared for, as I watched the film I was only aware of life passing by.
  • Sean Penn never tries to show Harvey Milk as a hero, and never needs to. He shows him as an ordinary man, kind, funny, flawed, shrewd, idealistic, yearning for a better world. He shows what such an ordinary man can achieve. Milk was the right person in the right place at the right time, and he rose to the occasion. So was Rosa Parks. Sometimes, at a precise moment in history, all it takes is for one person to stand up. Or sit down.
  • American movies are in the midst of a transition period. Some directors place their trust in technology. Spielberg, who is a master of technology, trusts only story and character, and then uses everything else as a workman uses his tools. He makes Minority Report with the new technology; other directors seem to be trying to make their movies from it. This film is such a virtuoso high-wire act, daring so much, achieving it with such grace and skill. Minority Report reminds us why we go to the movies in the first place.
  • What Charlize Theron achieves in Patty Jenkins' Monster isn't a performance but an embodiment. With courage, art and charity, she empathizes with Aileen Wuornos, a damaged woman who committed seven murders. She does not excuse the murders. She simply asks that we witness the woman's final desperate attempt to be a better person than her fate intended.
  • The ability of so many people to live comfortably with the idea of capital punishment is perhaps a clue to how so many Europeans were able to live with the idea of the Holocaust: Once you accept the notion that the state has the right to kill someone and the right to define what is a capital crime, aren't you halfway there?
  • To see strong acting like this is exhilarating. In a time of flashy directors who slice and dice their films in a dizzy editing rhythm, it is important to remember that films can look and listen and attentively sympathize with their characters. Directors grow great by subtracting, not adding, and Eastwood does nothing for show, everything for effect.
  • This is a painful movie to watch. But it is also exhilarating, as all good movies are, because we are watching the director and actors venturing beyond any conventional idea of what a modern movie can be about. Here there is no plot, no characters to identify with, no hope. But there is care: The filmmakers care enough about these people to observe them very closely, to note how they look and sound and what they feel.
  • Once is the kind of film I've been pestered about ever since I started reviewing again. People couldn't quite describe it, but they said I had to see it. I had to. Well, I did. They were right.
  • In the twilight of the 20th century, here is a comedy to reassure us that there is hope — that the world we see around us represents progress, not decay. Pleasantville, which is one of the year's best and most original films, sneaks up on us. It begins by kidding those old black-and-white sitcoms like "Father Knows Best," it continues by pretending to be a sitcom itself, and it ends as a social commentary of surprising power.
    ...
    The film observes that sometimes pleasant people are pleasant simply because they have never, ever been challenged. That it's scary and dangerous to learn new ways. The movie is like the defeat of the body snatchers: The people in color are like former pod people now freed to move on into the future. We observe that nothing creates fascists like the threat of freedom.
    Pleasantville is the kind of parable that encourages us to re-evaluate the good old days and take a fresh look at the new world we so easily dismiss as decadent. Yes, we have more problems. But also more solutions, more opportunities and more freedom. I grew up in the '50s. It was a lot more like the world of Pleasantville than you might imagine. Yes, my house had a picket fence, and dinner was always on the table at a quarter to six, but things were wrong that I didn't even know the words for.
  • Here is how [life] happens. We find something we want to do, if we are lucky, or something we need to do, if we are like most people. We use it as a way to obtain food, shelter, clothing, mates, comfort, a first folio of Shakespeare, model airplanes, American Girl dolls, a handful of rice, sex, solitude, a trip to Venice, Nikes, drinking water, plastic surgery, child care, dogs, medicine, education, cars, spiritual solace -- whatever we think we need. To do this, we enact the role we call "me," trying to brand ourselves as a person who can and should obtain these things.
In the process, we place the people in our lives into compartments and define how they should behave to our advantage. Because we cannot force them to follow our desires, we deal with projections of them created in our minds. But they will be contrary and have wills of their own. Eventually new projections of us are dealing with new projections of them. Sometimes versions of ourselves disagree. We succumb to temptation -- but, oh, father, what else was I gonna do? I feel like hell. I repent. I'll do it again... This has not been a conventional review. There is no need to name the characters, name the actors, assign adjectives to their acting. Look at who is in this cast. You know what I think of them. This film must not have seemed strange to them. It's what they do all day, especially waiting around for the director to make up his mind.
  • Sometimes when you've read the novel, it gets in the way of the images on the screen. You keep remembering how you imagined things. That didn't happen with me during Sophie's Choice, because the movie is so perfectly cast and well-imagined that it just takes over and happens to you. It's quite an experience. … The movie becomes an act of discovery, as the naive young American, his mind filled with notions of love, death, and honor, becomes the friend of a woman who has seen so much hate, death, and dishonor that the only way she can continue is by blotting out the past, and drinking and loving her way into temporary oblivion. … Sophie's Choice is a fine, absorbing, wonderfully acted, heartbreaking movie. It is about three people who are faced with a series of choices, some frivolous, some tragic. As they flounder in the bewilderment of being human in an age of madness, they become our friends, and we love them.
  • Films like Speed belong to the genre I call Bruised Forearm Movies, because you're always grabbing the arm of the person sitting next to you. Done wrong, they seem like tired replays of old chase cliches. Done well, they're fun. Done as well as Speed, they generate a kind of manic exhilaration.
  • We are connected with some people and never meet others, but it could easily have happened otherwise. Looking back over a lifetime, we describe what happened as if it had a plan. To fully understand how accidental and random life is - how vast the odds are against any single event taking place - would be humbling. ... This is the kind of film that makes you feel intensely alive while you're watching it, and sends you out into the streets afterwards eager to talk deeply and urgently, to the person you are with. Whoever that happens to be.
  • It is not too soon for "United 93," because it is not a film that knows any time has passed since 9/11. The entire story, every detail, is told in the present tense. We know what they know when they know it, and nothing else. Nothing about Al Qaeda, nothing about Osama bin Laden, nothing about Afghanistan or Iraq, only events as they unfold. This is a masterful and heartbreaking film, and it does honor to the memory of the victims.
  • Kids are not stupid. They are among the sharpest, cleverest, most eagle-eyed creatures on God's Earth, and very little escapes their notice. You may not have observed that your neighbor is still using his snow tires in mid-July, but every four-year-old on the block has, and kids pay the same attention to detail when they go to the movies. They don't miss a thing, and they have an instinctive contempt for shoddy and shabby work. I make this observation because nine out of ten children's movies are stupid, witless, and display contempt for their audiences, and that's why kids hate them. Is that all parents want from kids' movies? That they not have anything bad in them? Shouldn't they have something good in them — some life, imagination, fantasy, inventiveness, something to tickle the imagination? If a movie isn't going to do your kids any good, why let them watch it? Just to kill a Saturday afternoon? That shows a subtle kind of contempt for a child's mind, I think. All of this is preface to a simple statement: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is probably the best film of its sort since "The Wizard of Oz." It is everything that family movies usually claim to be, but aren't: Delightful, funny, scary, exciting, and, most of all, a genuine work of imagination. Willy Wonka is such a surely and wonderfully spun fantasy that it works on all kinds of minds, and it is fascinating because, like all classic fantasy, it is fascinated with itself.

Other[edit]

  • It is all very well and good for Linda Lovelace, the star of the movie, to advocate sexual freedom; but the energy she brings to her role is less awesome than discouraging. If you have to work this hard at sexual freedom, maybe it isn't worth the effort.
  • [T]he elements in The Wizard of Oz powerfully fill a void that exists inside many children. For kids of a certain age, home is everything, the center of the world. But over the rainbow, dimly guessed at, is the wide earth, fascinating and terrifying. There is a deep fundamental fear that events might conspire to transport the child from the safety of home and strand him far away in a strange land. And what would he hope to find there? Why, new friends, to advise and protect him. And Toto, of course, because children have such a strong symbiotic relationship with their pets that they assume they would get lost together.
  • I am required to award stars to movies I review. This time, I refuse to do it. The star rating system is unsuited to this film. Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don't shine.

Quotes about Ebert[edit]

Alphabetized by author
Here’s something you don’t hear said about many movie critics: people love Roger Ebert. ~ Rodney Welch
  • Roger Ebert is a national treasure. He is the most recognizable and well known movie critic. He has been my favorite writer for some time now. I do not always agree with his [[opinions], which is my right, but he always backs them up. He is not someone who will say that such and such about movie X is bad and leave it at that — he will give the reasons for his thought process.
  • I was very saddened today to hear of the death of Roger Ebert. Roger... has been my favorite film critic since forever. I did not always agree with him, but I always found him insightful and fun to read. He was not just a terrific critic, he was a terrific WRITER... A brilliant man, a good life. I give him two thumbs up.
  • "The movies won’t be the same without Roger," the President of the United States said today in a statement upon the death of Roger Ebert, one of the most influential American writers and critics of the last quarter century. He was, to begin, a great film critic, a joyful viewer who always preached that great art and popular entertainment were not exclusive. … He was also a great essayist, and the world now begs some book publisher to come along to bind his best blog posts, if only so they can be preserved by others who loved the printed word as much as he did. But most importantly, he celebrated humanity, and the things it creates.
  • Here’s something you don’t hear said about many movie critics: people love Roger Ebert. ... There’s a good reason for this: Ebert doesn’t stand between moviegoers and the audience. Rather, his regular readers are serious movie-lovers who see him as their rep, the guy out there fighting to make movies less stupid, more entertaining, more intelligent, more everything. You don’t have to agree with him — and I certainly didn’t in this book, when he ragged on Team America and Jesus is Magic, two movies where I laughed myself sick — to know that he’s on your side. He sees the bad movies so you don’t have to, and he’s seen the same ones over and over. ... Mere bile, though, isn’t his game; he’s as interested in why movies fail as why they work. A lot of the time, it’s obvious: because it’s made by morons for morons. In these cases, Ebert drags us through the plot in as entertaining a fashion as possible. ... Forty years on, he’s still a moviegoer’s best friend.

External links[edit]

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