Ebert: Thumbs Up or Down?

So what do you think of Roger Ebert movie reviewer?

I found out his reviews some two or three years ago and I loved them. They’re knowledgeable without being pretentious and even when I disagree with him totally I usually can get an idea about wether or not I’ll like a movie despite Ebert’s own likes and dislikes.

He is very famous (or infamous) in this board. I’m not american so I would like to know why.

People around here seem to cite him as an authority in movie matters but they don’t seem to respect him. Why?

Some people around here say he’s seen better days. When and why?

And in an unrelated note, which other movie critics that are any good can I find in the web? Cervaise has a great informative site but it slowed down a lot in number and frequency of reviews and the ones that are added are usually of obscure movies I haven’t/won’t/can’t see.

I’d appreciate having grammar/spelling mistakes pointed out.

Most of the people I’ve encountered on the 'net who are anti-Ebert are generally just being bitchy because he gave one or more of their favorite movies a bad review.

I don’t agree with him all the time (nor do I expect to) but, his reviews are always interesting and occasionally highly entertaining. What more can you really ask for from a movie critic?

Both thumbs up!

Know I can read his review to learn a little background and not have the movie plot ruined. One of the few movie reviewers who got into the business because he loves and knows movies; not because he started out writing about something else.

I agree with most of his reviews, except when it comes to sappy, Oscar-calber chick flicks.

He’s the only film critic I pay any attention to at all.


A lot of people don’t respect Ebert because his best-known screenwriting credit is “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,” a name-only sequel to one of the worst movies of all time. BTVOTD is supposedly much better than the original, for what that’s worth.

I was a fan of Ebert’s reviews for many years. I have some of his books and enjoy his collections of movie “rules.” But his sometimes shoddy research makes me doubt other things I can’t verify. For example, in reviewing one movie, he’ll quote another movie and attribute dialogue to the wrong character, which makes his point moot. He doesn’t really have an excuse for that.

I generally respect his reviews, even if I don’t always agree with him. My main criticism is he sometimes reviews the movie he expected to see, rather than the movie he actually saw. I remember his review of Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood amounted to “Costner doesn’t even LOOK like Errol Flynn!”. His reviews of the recent Lord of the Rings movies have been criticized on this board by others: he can’t seem to get over the fact that Peter Jackson’s vision of the material is different from his own, and he should just review the movies on their own cinematic terms. He keeps going back to “that’s really not how I pictured it”. Fine, Rog, but how does it work as a movie? (His memories of the books seem to be in error, BTW. He seems to remember them as much calmer and more pastoral than they are).

To his credit, he is not a snob. He is equally enthusiastic about obscure foreign language stuff, and mass market children’s fare, as long as it is well done. He can find quality in any type of movie, if it is there to begin with.

MusicJunkie your spelling and grammar are fine, probably above average for these boards. Is English a second language for you?

Since most of the people who criticize Ebert on this point have never written a screenplay and never will, I find it hard to take this as a legitimate criticism. I’ve encountered a few people on the 'net who say they don’t respect Ebert as a reviewer because he wrote BTVOTD and the argument comes across as a poor excuse to explain animosity they have no logical reasons for.

He probably gave their favorite film ever a bad review, but they can’t tell people that now can they?

I was running a university film society when Roger Ebert first started to write film reviews. We’re talking about 1967ish. The rumor at the time was that he was next up for promotion, so he got the job of writing film reviews, but he really wanted to write sports stuff. Those early years, he was dreadful as a film reviewer. He’d make really, really stupid mistakes – like, he’d say that a performance reminded him of John Wayne burning Atlanta in GONE WITH THE WIND. It was clear that he hadn’t seen many old classic movies but was pretending he had. He was arrogant and snobbish, and had no right to be (that is, no film education or background or taste.)

In those days, I could rely upon him almost 100% – if he liked something, it was sure to be heavy-handed and artsy-fartsy, and I knew that I wouldn’t like it. Alas, he’s no longer predictable. On the plus side, he’s probably learned a little about movies in the last 35 years.

But my distaste for his reviews sprang from that long-ago period, and I’ve never bothered to read his stuff since then.

I often agree with Ebert. Sometimes his reviews are fun to read even if I disagee. You can tell that he has read SF (even he doesn’t remeber too well). He also apreciates anime, which is a good sign.

I find his anti-digital stance odd. (tho he did admit that digitally filmed movies are best when digitally projected)


Yeah, but I started learning it some 8 years ago and as I have a huge interest in SF and that’s not very easy to find in Brazil I read a lot in English. That and I’ve recently lived in Boston for an year.

Still it’s always good to learn more. I’m thinking of making that request my sig but I’m just too lazy to find out how to do that just now.

Thanks for the compliment.

I never would have guessed from your OP that you weren’t a native English speaker.

I live near Boston too. There is certainly a growing Brazilian influence here, both in the city, and in the western suburbs where I live. There is even a Brazilian restaurant in a small town near where I live. They opened about a year ago and are doing a booming business!

For a good overview of reviews available online, I check out Rotten Tomatoes. Because of the variety of reviews linked to on that site, you’ll have to assess the “quality” of each reviewer individually. It’s still a good resource, however.

On Ebert: I enjoy reading his reviews. Overall, he’s fairly down-to-earth while still dealing out substantive criticism. Doesn’t always get his facts right, however – he needs a good checker. (Also, that Citizen Kane fixation is a little tiresome. :))

**You used the wrong homonym for “whether” in your OP. Also “an year” and “that request [in] my sig” in your last post are errors.

(Of course, having pointed out those mistakes, I will notice several in my own post upon hitting “submit”. :))

Ebert is the only critic that I read regularly. I find his reviews to be both the most entertaining and the most accurate. Most especially, when he really falls in love with a movie then I know that it will be outstanding. Being John Malkovich and Pleasantville are the best examples that I can think of.

He’s my favourite movie reviewer, though that’s not saying alot :). If he doesn’t like a movie he’s clear enough about why (rather than just saying it sucks ) that even when I don’t agree with him I can see where he s coming from.

Plus I like his policy (though he slips up occasionally) of judging a movie on what it’s trying to accomplish. In his review of Aliens he made it clear that he didn’t like the movie and watching it wasn’t a pleasant experience, but he gave it 3 1/2 stars since it did exacty what it had advertised: scared the bejeesuz out of him.

Don’t laugh, but my favorite movie reviewer (based on the entertainment value of the reviews) is The Brunching Shuttlecock’s Self Made Critic.

His reviews are usually funny as hell, and often surprisingly informative given that their focus on humor.

Of course, Ebert is my favorite serious film critic.

—Most of the people I’ve encountered on the 'net who are anti-Ebert are generally just being bitchy because he gave one or more of their favorite movies a bad review.—

Hey, I’m bitchy because he gives lousy movies good reviews. :slight_smile:

Well yeah, there’s that too. :smiley:

Of course, Ebert can’t read your mind and tell you want to hear, he can only give his own opinions. Whether or not you agree with them is pretty much beside the point.

In my opinion, Ebert is one of the top three or four movie reviewers in the business.

The thing about Ebert is that he does his homework, especially in his long reviews. If he sees a historical movie, he’ll actually take the time to go read the history in question and compare it to the movie. If a movie is about hustlers, he takes the time to learn a bit about the world of the hustler so he can get some perspective. Thus, sometimes his reviews go beyond the movie and delve into actual social commentary.

Plus, he’s just a damned good writer.

Here are some especially good reviews:

House of Games
The Hustler
Lawrence of Arabia
Pulp Fiction

C K Dexter Haven says he didn’t know much about movies 35 years ago. Maybe not, but he’s learned a lot since. His reviews just drip with details about the movie business, obscure movie references, and inside knowledge of directors, writers, and actors. Film is clearly his passion, and he’s made an intensive study of it for decades. This puts him head-and-shoulders above the typical movie reviewer, who’s just a writer in a newspaper who could have gotten the sports beat instead.

If Ebert has an achilles heel, it’s that he writes great reviews for movies he loves, and movies he hates, but the ones in the middle bore him. Those are his weakest reviews.

BTW, in my opinion the other best movie reviewers are Pauline Kael, Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader, Stephen Hunter, David Edelstein of Slate, and there’s one or two others I’m drawing a blank on right now.

Thing is; he likes most of the movies I like, and dislikes most of the movies I dislike… but when I read (or hear) WHY he does or does not like a movie, I’m left wondering if he was high while viewing the picture or writing his review.


-Is a common response to his movie reviews.

That’s just shows that there are all kinds of different reasons for liking or disliking a movie, which is why I don’t usually trust the opinions of film reviewers when it comes to deciding to go see a film or not.

I’m more the sort of person who reads a review after he’s seen the film to see why the critic did or didn’t like it and whether or not I agree.