I’ve read Roger Ebert for many years and I have a great respect for him despite our political differences. Lately though, I think his objectivity has taken a dive, giving way to attitude as his way of gauging movies as opposed to taking in movies for what they are meant to be and who they may be geared to.
There are three cases in point. Last week, during the holidays, the wife and I were disappointed in the slim choices we had for new movies at the theaters. Usually around July 4th there are a few good movies opening but this year there seemed to be a dearth. After some deliberation we decided to go see Tom Hank’s new movie Larry Crowne despite the fact that Ebert panned it. Turns out that we enjoyed it very much, partly because it was geared for people in our age group (60’s). Intensive CGI-based movies are not our cup of tea as we would rather have the dialog set the scene rather than spectacular graphics. Not that the dialog in Larry Crowne was great but it was pleasant and hit the spot.
Towards the end of the week, Horrible Bosses and Zookeeper came out and these garnered thumbs up from Ebert so we were pleased that the selection of movies to see was improving. Well, sorry to say, both of those movies were severely lacking in humor, storyline and directing. Usually I like Kevin James and the writing on King of Queens was almost always phenomenal. They should have hired the same writers for Zookeeper because whoever did it was overpaid. As for Horrible Bosses, Jason Bateman looked like he wished he were somewhere else and I can’t blame him. What a stupid premise that whole movie was.
So, sorry Ebert. I’m trusting your movie reviews less and less.
I’ve pretty much stopped listening to (or at least, giving weight to) all critics reviews. They seem to have much different criteria for judging the movie than I do.
What I DO pay attention to these days is the Yahoo! Movies User’s Grade. I find that this grade gives me a better prediction of whether I’ll like the movie or not. There ARE a few gotchas in that system that you have to be aware of, though. All “regular” movies start out with pretty high marks on opening day. If the grade is too high or too low (e.g., A+ or D) on opening day, that means that some political movement has influenced the grade. For example, The Golden Compass had a VERY low grade on opening day due to all of the Fundies (who I’m sure hadn’t even seen the movie) giving it an F because it was allegedly an atheist movie.
After 1 or 2 days, however, the grades seem to average out. A rating of A-, B+, or B usually means it’s a pretty good movie. Any C grade means it’s probably not very good. The number of ratings is also important. Any movie with less than, oh, 100 user ratings probably isn’t very accurate.
I generally find Ebert entertaining which is about what I ask for in a columnist. As for movies, even films with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 20% means that ~1-in-5 people should like it. Sometimes you’re that one guy.
I don’t expect movie reviewers to have exactly the same taste as me. I don’t care how accurate a review is if it is boring. I don’t really feel like I have to avoid movies he gives two stars too or must watch the four star movies. However I will avoid movies that he gives one star ratings to. If you must watch a one star movie, wait for Netflix or better yet Netflix Instant.
For myself, his reviews are an opportunity to read some excellent prose and stimulate a few ideas about the film–ideas that inevitably enhance my movie experience, even if it turns out I don’t like the film. If you’re using them to gauge whether or not a movie is “worth it”, you’re really missing the point.
Any trust I had was destroyed when he gave Synecdoche, New York glowing reviews, calling it the “best film of the decade” and “one of the greatest of all time”. Admittedly so did many other critics; others gave it failing grades, there was hardly any middle ground. Of course Charlie Kaufman is my litmus for “The Emperor Has No Clothes” artists: what critics interpret as innovative and unique and symbolic I often interpret as ‘pretentious crap masquerading as absurdism because the writer was too lazy or untalented to write a coherent script’.
For me, it was his glowing review of Michael Moore’s typically ridiculous, manipulative, and outright false “documentary” Sicko.
Michael Moore is a modern day Josef Goebbels, he’s not a filmmaker, he’s a propagandist. And in the past Ebert acknowledged this. And yet this time he, obviously because his own health issues were at a bit of a low at the time, threw logic and caution to the wind and just went on and on about how everyone everywhere should be able to get free, round the clock homecare like he has.
Excuse me there Rog, but no, you get that for the same reason you get to travel in a limo and fly first class everywhere, because you’re rich! And you’re rich because you’ve earned it. Don’t try and peddle you’re liberal guilt off on us by giving an overwhelmingly biased, emotion-based, propaganda-favoring screed instead of a movie review!
Bothers me a lot because I too used to really really like his reviews. They were more like intelligent dissertations on film making, pop-culture, and economics. He even published two of my entries in his Ebert’s Movie Cliché book, and referred to one of them in no less than three of his reviews!
He’s gotten extremely lazy, and many times complains about plot holes that don’t exist - he just didn’t catch the explanation because he wasn’t paying attention (used to be because he was notorious for a mid-movie concession stand run). He’ll also point out actual plot holes and say “even despite these end-of-movie impossibilities that destroy the previous hour and a half of logic and reason - why not? I loved it.” That’s his prerogative, but it’s not an opinion I want to trust to help me make my movie-going decisions.
That’s exactly the problem. If I’m wondering whether I want to see a movie in a theater (answer: probably not, because of problems with the theaters), most of what I want to know is whether the movie will entertain me most of the time. Yeah, I hate plot holes and expository lumps and all that shit, but if a movie is fun, I’m willing to forgive a few faults. But most critics take themselves and the film industry too seriously.
However, if you can find a critic who pans everything that you love and loves everything that you hate, then that critic is actually a great critic for you. You can use him/her as your Bizarro guide, and see what s/he hates and avoid what s/he loves.