I’ve always thought that Roger Ebert deserved every bit of fame he deserves. Unlike other movie reviewers, Ebert is a real movie fanatic. He studies the craft, the technology, the art, the actors, the writing… He’s an ex script writer himself.
As proof, let me offer one of the best movie reviews I’ve read in a long, long time: http://www.suntimes.com/ebert/greatmovies/sho-sunday-ebert231.html
This is Ebert’s review of “The Hustler”, and it highlights just why he is so good. Not only does he capture all of the important nuances of the movie and ‘get’ the subtle messages and tone, but he shows real insight into what makes hustlers tick, and even what it means to be a great pool player, despite the fact that Ebert may have never picked up a stick.
The man does his homework. He thinks. He works hard at understanding. And in the end, he’s a great writer.
Compare him to the vast flock of other movie reviewers, who often wind up in their positions simply by jockeying around on a newspaper staff. Most of them have no particular credentials to be movie critics, and most of them miss a lot of the subtlety of cinematography, direction, and the technical aspects of movie-making.
Ebert is also very good at not letting pretention get in the way of reviewing a movie. He reviews movies not against some Citizen Kane standard, but simply against the standard the movie sets for itself. Does it achieve what it set out to do? Ebert will give a teen slasher flick four stars if it’s a very good teen slasher flick. Even if it’s not 1/10 of the movie of something like The Hustler, because it never intended to be. That’s fair.
On the other hand, his new co-reviewer Roeper is a hack who doesn’t have a clue. I wonder if they intentionally set Ebert up with an idiot so Ebert could chop him to pieces.
Anyway, my .02. Wasn’t sure if this belonged in IMHO or here. I just wanted to say all this after reading that review of The Hustler, which is one of my favorite movies. And as an ex competitive pool player, I was astonished by the insight Ebert shows into what it’s all about.
BTW, I’d say the next best reviewer around is the Chicago Reader’s Jonathan Rosenbaum.