Factual errors that Roger Ebert has made

In the Fantastic Four thread, Rickjay mentioned that sometimes Roger Ebert doesn’t even watch the whole movie he’s reviewing, using War of the Worlds as an example. I haven’t seen WOTW, so I can’t comment on that. But I swear I’ve caught a couple of mistakes Ebert has made before–I just can’t remember them. Does anyone else have examples of when they’ve seen Ebert mess up? You know, where he must have at the very least misremembered the movie he’s critiquing?

The only one I know of is Home of the Brave, a filmed-concert movie from Laurie Anderson’s Mister Heartbreak tour. Ebert mentions her quote about the plight of human sperm (“Hundreds of thousands of tiny specks, all knowing exactly the same thing”) spoken while a computer-animated tape loop of swimming sperm plays on the screen behind her. I’ve seen the movie, and sure don’t remember that bit.

But this is the opposite of what was suggested in the other thread. Here Ebert’s mentioning something in a review that wasn’t in the movie I saw. I suspect that either something was taken out between when he saw the movie (usually before the official release, and sometimes changes are made) and when I saw it from the VHS tape release. Either that, or Ebert was enough of a fan to have seen that concert tour in person, and cited something from the live performance that was never in the film.

Ebert’s review of Resident Evil was just one long trainwreck of mistakes.

I can even Cite! myself

I read Ebert’s review, then read John Scalzo’s review of his review. I also saw this movie for the first time about 2 months ago, and frankly, I don’t see any mistakes in Ebert’s review.

I see Scalzo whining a lot, and calling the use of the phrase “on the Internet Movie Database” a whole paragraph, but I didn’t see any mistakes about the plot of the movie in Ebert’s review.

Spoiling the ending of the movie isn’t a mistake, it’s just kind of bad form. Still not a factual error tho.

Taking jabs at the shuffling zombies isn’t a factual error, it’s humor.

Criticizing dialogue, or the lack of it, is perfectly acceptable from a film critic.

Scalzo is wrong, Ebert doesn’t refer to the commandos as scientists, he refers to them as “investigators”. They are investigating what happened, so that word is appropo.

The rest of the Scalzo piece is just whining. I’m not seeing the errors in Ebert’s review tho.

That’s apropos, Bo.

(Sorry. Had to post it. It rhymes!)

“I am not fat.”

Ebert awhile back wrote a non-movie related column and, sickening liberal that he is, decided to write about how shocked, shocked , he was that the Bush twins, Jenna and Barbara, actually wore blue jeans while they visited the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

Turned out to be a total urban legend. He fell for it. Ebert had to write a follow-up column and eat a lot of crow. He sticks to movies now.

Review-wise? How 'bout the fact that he gives the original Die Hard two lousy stars, then turns around and gives the univerally panned sequel to a rip-off of *Die Hard * (Speed 2 ) three-and-a-half stars? Any credibility he had left after that was gone, as far as I’m concerned.

Oh, just thought of something else. Team America: World Police Ebert on his show was whining about how the current state of the world was too important to be made fun of…and how the movie ridiculed the celebrities who care so much about terrorism. Wahhh, wahhh. Of course, Team America made fun of the left, so of course he he doesn’t like it. But a movie that makes fun of the military during another time when people were worried about the state of the world? Dr. Strangelove ? Oh, that he considers a classic. Go figure.

My apologies. I notice that my comments about Ebert’s reviews aren’t really factual errors! Oops. But he was still totally wrong about the Bush twins!

In his review of Raising Victor Vargas, I emailed him to let him know he attributed a line to the incorrect character. Strictly speaking, it’s a factual error, but holding it against the guy is kind of petty, IMO.

He (well, someone) did email me back to thank me for pointing it out to him. I thought that was cool.

He said that Lost in Translation was brilliant and moving, proving conclusively he’d never seen it.

I just wanted to say, since you linked it, that that one phrase that confused you :

“I hate when that happens”

is kind of a boilerplate joke about something really really unusual and horrible transpiring. Like, “and then the mutant worms ate my skin” being treated at the same level as “and then I stubbed my toe gettting out of the bath”. Ok, not the most original or funniest of jokes but I hope you are unbaffeled.

In his review of Raise the Red Lantern, Ebert said that the Songlian’s mother betrayed her by selling her as a concubine. In fact, the movie opens with Songlian’s mother begging her not to marry a rich man, because “you will only be his concubine.” Songlian replies, “Let me be a concubine. Isn’t that the fate of a woman?”

I believe this is an important mistake on Ebert’s part, as it affects his understanding of the motivation of the main character. If she became a concubine only because her mother betrayed her, then her actions can be seen as poorly-guided attempts to make the best of a situation she didn’t create. But the movie actually portrays Songlian as a cynic from the beginning, and her problems are those of her own choosing.

in his review of “league of extraordinary gentlemen” he mentioned something about robots that werent in the movie

Back when him and Siskel were still on PBS, they reviewed Yentil and both of them panned the movie, saying things like they couldn’t believe someone as old as Barbara Streisand could try to play someone as young as her character was supposed to be, and that a 97 page book really isn’t long enough to base a film on. Then, years later they did a retrospective Babs career, and both of them claimed to have loved Yentil from the start. Now, it’s entirely possible that they changed their opinion of the film over the years, but you think that they’d at least review the tapes of their commentary of her films to make sure that they didn’t contradict themselves. (In their comments on the retrospective, they said it was simply “brilliant” her casting herself as the young person in the film.)

I can’t trust any writer who thinks a sequel to Resident Evil would be any cause for celebration. I don’t care if it was based on a video game it was still a crappy movie.


PS: Talking about Scalzo not Ebert of course.

HAHAHAHAhahah, because he’s fat! Only, he’s not anymore since he had cancer and went on a diet.

In his review of Metropolitan, he states that the male lead is infatuated with a girl “once glimpsed at a dance, never forgotten”. NO. She led him to believe that they had an exclusive relationship, and the fact that they wrote letters to each other sets up a key plot point. Glimpsed, indeed.

Not a factual error, but in his review of Lucas, he used tones of near-awe to describe Corey Haim’s performance, claiming that he could be a successful adult actor: “He is that good.” Well, it was a good performance, but based on what I knew even then about what a punk Haim was, I couldn’t help throwing up in my mouth a little. And now that statement is just pathetic.

In his review of Aliens, I believe, he stated that the film had already been made several times – as Alien, The Thing, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. well, Alien ain’t Aliens (the former, many SF film fans feel, owes more than a little to the 50s film It! The Terror from Beyond Space), The Thing is based on John W. Campbell’s story “Who Goes There”, and TIotBS is based on Finney’s novel “The Body Snatchers”. None of them have anything to do with each other in either origin or plot. On occasion Ebert has shown that he is, in fact, familiar with science fiction, but here he sounds like a typical mainstream critic ignorant of the genre and not terribly concerned about it.

Then he was correct!

Check out Ebert’s Answerman today.

He discusses the stability of 3-legged creatures with a MIT robotics scientist. It’s pretty interesting reading, just for the dope of it.