Yesterday the world lost a legend. Just days after announcing his cancer had returned, Roger Ebert died at the age of 70.
Like many people my age, my first encounter with him was the Ebert of “Siskel and Ebert.” In a household where movies were part of the culture—Friday night visits to Jim LaBarbara Video Store in Cincinnati (where I was never allowed to rent Attack of the Killer Tomatoes); stacks of black VHS tapes waiting by the TV to tape broadcasted, edited movies—the program Siskel and Ebert and The Movies was always watched, the newspaper movie ads with “Two Thumbs Up,” always highlighted for future viewing.
It wasn’t until I was older that I encountered the other Ebert, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. A writer who transcended movie reviewing. Someone who inspired people—including me—to see movies not merely as entertainment, but as a galvanizing force that can change opinions. Someone who perfectly articulated our need for fun comedies and searing documentaries. Someone who was smart, eloquent, and fair (always). And a writer who was often bitingly funny.
So what better way to pay tribute to the great Roger Ebert than by remembering some of his funniest and most eloquent reviews?
The Funniest …
“Studying the press material for Mannequin, I learn that Michael Gottlieb, the director, got the idea for this movie five years ago when he was walking down Fifth Avenue and thought he saw a mannequin move in the window of Bergdorf Goodman. Just thought you’d like to know.”
The Last Airbender (2010)
“An agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented.”
“Going to see Godzilla at the Palais of the Cannes Film Festival is like attending a satanic ritual in St. Peter’s Basilica.”
The Blue Lagoon (1980)
“The dumbest movie of the year.”
Battlefield Earth (2000)
“Like taking a bus trip with someone who has needed a bath for a long time. It’s not merely bad; it’s unpleasant in a hostile way.”
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)
“Sitting through this experience is like driving a tractor in low gear though a sullen sea of Brylcreem.”
Jaws 4 – The Revenge (1987)
“The shark models have so little movement that at times they seem to be supporting themselves on boats, instead of attacking them. Up until the ludicrous final sequence of the movie, the scariest creature in the film is an eel.”
Sex and the City 2 (2010)
“The characters…are flyweight bubbleheads living in a world which rarely requires three sentences in a row. Their defining quality is consuming things. They gobble food, fashion, houses, husbands, children, vitamins and freebies. They must plan their wardrobes on the phone, so often do they appear in different basic colors, like the plugs you pound into a Playskool workbench.”
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
“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.”
Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979)
“If you can think of a single line of dialog that Slim Pickens, as “Tex,” wouldn’t say in “Beyond the Poseidon Adventure,” please do not miss this movie, which will be filled with amazements and startling revelations.”
And the most eloquent …
Spirited Away (2002)
“Miyazaki says he made the film specifically for 10-year-old girls. That is why it plays so powerfully for adult viewers. Movies made for “everybody” are actually made for nobody in particular. Movies about specific characters in a detailed world are spellbinding because they make not attempt to cater to us; they are defiantly, triumphantly, themselves.”
“Here is still another illustration of the old Hollywood noir principle that a movie lives its life not through its hero, but within its shadows… Drive looks like one kind of movie in the ads, and it is that kind of movie. It is also a rebuke to most of the movies it looks like.”
Blood Simple (1984)
“It tells a story in which every individual detail seems to make sense, and every individual choice seems logical, but the choices and details form a bewildering labyrinth in which there are times when even the murderers themselves don’t know who they are.”
“The movie is visionary and elegiac, more a fable than a story, and frame by frame, it looks like a portfolio of spaces so wide, so open, that men must wonder if they have a role beneath such indifferent skies.”