homeaboutarchives + tagsshopmembership!
aboutarchivesshopmembership!
aboutarchivesmembers!

kottke.org posts about Roger Ebert

Sita Sings the Blues

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2009

Watch the entirety of Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues online.

Sita is a goddess separated from her beloved Lord and husband Rama. Nina is an animator whose husband moves to India, then dumps her by e-mail. Three hilarious shadow puppets narrate both ancient tragedy and modern comedy in this beautifully animated interpretation of the Indian epic Ramayana. Set to the 1920’s jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw, Sita Sings the Blues earns its tagline as “The Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told.”

The film was made by Nina Paley on her home computer and garnered a rave review from Roger Ebert.

I put on the DVD and start watching. I am enchanted. I am swept away. I am smiling from one end of the film to the other. It is astonishingly original. It brings together four entirely separate elements and combines them into a great whimsical chord. You might think my attention would flag while watching An animated version of the epic Indian tale of Ramayana set to the 1920’s jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw. Quite the opposite. It quickens.

As a small independent filmmaker, Paley ran into licensing issues for the music used in the film that has prevented the release of the film….until now. (via waxy)

Remembering Gene Siskel

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 19, 2009

Roger Ebert offers a loving remembrance of his friend and colleague Gene Siskel on the 10th anniversary of his death.

We both thought of ourselves as full-service, one-stop film critics. We didn’t see why the other one was quite necessary. We had been linked in a Faustian television format that brought us success at the price of autonomy. No sooner had I expressed a verdict on a movie, my verdict, than here came Siskel with the arrogance to say I was wrong, or, for that matter, the condescension to agree with me. It really felt like that. It was not an act. When we disagreed, there was incredulity; when we agreed, there was a kind of relief. In the television biz, they talk about “chemistry.” Not a thought was given to our chemistry. We just had it, because from the day the Chicago Tribune made Gene its film critic, we were professional enemies. We never had a single meaningful conversation before we started to work on our TV program. Alone together in an elevator, we would study the numbers changing above the door.

Ebert’s 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 19, 2008

Roger Ebert reminisces about the car of his boyhood dreams, the 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk.

“When these cars were new,” I said. “They weremuch faster than ‘57 Corvettes or T-Birds. The salesmen would put a client on the back seat, put a $100 bill on the front seat, and tell the client he could keep the money if he could overcome the force of the acceleration, and lean forward and pick it up while the Hawk was doing zero-to-60.”

Ebert owned a Golden Hawk for several years before he had to sell it because he couldn’t maintain it properly.

Ebert: down with celebrity culture

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 02, 2008

Roger Ebert rails against our infantilizing celebrity obsessed media.

The AP, long considered obligatory to the task of running a North American newspaper, has been hit with some cancellations lately, and no doubt has been informed what its customers want: Affairs, divorces, addiction, disease, success, failure, death watches, tirades, arrests, hissy fits, scandals, who has been “seen with” somebody, who has been “spotted with” somebody, and “top ten” lists of the above. (Celebs “seen with” desire to be seen, celebs “spotted with” do not desire to be seen.)

The CelebCult virus is eating our culture alive, and newspapers voluntarily expose themselves to it. It teaches shabby values to young people, festers unwholesome curiosity, violates privacy, and is indifferent to meaningful achievement. One of the TV celeb shows has announced it will cover the Obama family as “a Hollywood story.” I want to smash something against a wall.

As in most matters, Ebert speaks for me in this regard, the smashing in particular. His final line — “The news is still big. It’s the newspapers that got small.” — is spot on and, I’m increasingly convinced, the way out for newspapers in the long term. The news is big and newspapers need to get back to covering its complexity, significance, and interestingness.

Ebert pwns bad movie fan

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 25, 2008

Roger Ebert recently got a question asking why he didn’t review Disaster Movie.

Q. Yo dude, u missed out on “Disaster Movie,” a hardcore laugh-ur-@zz-off movie! Y U not review this movie!? It was funny as #ell! Prolly the funniest movie of the summer! U never review these, wat up wit dat?
- S.J. Stanczak, Chicago

A. Hey, bro, I wuz buzier than $#i+, @d they never shoed it b4 hand. I peeped in the IMDb and saw it zoomed to #1 as the low$ie$t flic of all time, wit @ lame-@zz UZer Rating of 1.3. U liked it? Wat up wit dat?

Totally pwned. He’s not completely fluent, but Ebert should write all of his reviews in l33tspeak.

Ebert on starred movie ratings

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 18, 2008

As someone who gets quite a lot of shit for his movie ratings, I quite enjoyed Roger Ebert’s explanation of how he decides how many stars to give a film and why his ratings are usually higher than those of other critics. I give this bit 4 out of 4 stars:

In the early days of my career I said I rated a movie according to its “generic expectations,” whatever that meant. It might translate like this: “The star ratings are relative, not absolute. If a director is clearly trying to make a particular kind of movie, and his audiences are looking for a particular kind of movie, part of my job is judging how close he came to achieving his purpose.” Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean I’d give four stars to the best possible chainsaw movie. In my mind, four stars and, for that matter, one star, are absolute, not relative. They move outside “generic expectations” and triumph or fail on their own.

His “I like to write as if I’m on an empty sea” line is happily filed away, to be used as liberally as possible.

Ebert, how to read movies

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 05, 2008

Roger Ebert talks about how to read a movie.

This all began for me in about 1969, when I started teaching a film class in the University of Chicago’s Fine Arts program. I knew a Chicago film critic, teacher and booker named John West, who lived in a wondrous apartment filled with film prints, projectors, books, posters and stills. “You know how football coaches use a stop-action 16mm projector to study game films?” he asked me. “You can use that approach to study films. Just pause the film and think about what you see. You ought to try it with your film class.”

I did. The results were beyond my imagination. I wasn’t the teacher and my students weren’t the audience, we were all in this together. The ground rules: Anybody could call out “stop!” and discuss what we were looking at, or whatever had just occurred to them.

This article also contains the most information-rich paragraph I’ve ever read online…it’s like an entire film class in 12 lines. Fascinating stuff. One of the points is that, generally, the right side of the screen is more positive. In a later comment, Ebert adds:

In all the years with Siskel and on all the incarnations of the show, I always quietly made sure I was seated on the right. When Roeper came aboard, the producers insisted I “belonged” in “Gene’s seat.” Sentiment won over visual strategy. Did I really think it made a difference? Yes, I really did.

Also, he should do this online…post film stills and let people leave comments, discuss, etc.

Ebert thinks 3-D sucks

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 20, 2008

Roger Ebert is not a fan of 3-D movies.

Ask yourself this question: Have you ever watched a 2-D movie and wished it were in 3-D? Remember that boulder rolling behind Indiana Jones in “Raiders of the Lost Ark?” Better in 3-D? No, it would have been worse. Would have been a tragedy. The 3-D process is like a zombie, a vampire, or a 17-year cicada: seemingly dead, but crawling out alive after a lapse of years. We need a wooden stake.

The balcony is closed

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 25, 2008

Nice remembrance from Roger Ebert on the end of the long-running At the Movies show.

One thing we never did, apart from an occasional special show, was depart from the format: Two critics debating the week’s new movies. No “advance looks” at trailers for movies we hadn’t even seen. No celebrity interviews. No red carpet sound bites. Just two guys talking about the movies. At one point, our show and two clones were on the air simultaneously. Then we were left alone again: The only show on TV that would actually tell you if we thought a movie was bad.

Roger Ebert + blog = subscribed. (via house next door)

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 29, 2008

Roger Ebert + blog = subscribed. (via house next door)

NY Times film critic A.O. Scott

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 13, 2008

NY Times film critic A.O. Scott penned a short appreciation of fellow reviewer Roger Ebert for the Sunday Times, particularly his TV work.

His criticism shows a nearly unequaled grasp of film history and technique, and formidable intellectual range, but he rarely seems to be showing off. He’s just trying to tell you what he thinks, and to provoke some thought on your part about how movies work and what they can do.

Roger Ebert announces his return to his

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 02, 2008

Roger Ebert announces his return to his Sun-Times reviewing gig…but not his TV show because he’s currently unable to speak.

Are you as bored with my health as I am? I underwent a third surgery in January, this one in Houston, and once again there were complications. I am sorry to say that my ability to speak was not restored. That would require another surgery. But I still have all my other abilities, including the love of viewing movies and writing about them.

Good luck, Roger!

Roger Ebert’s list of the best films

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 21, 2007

Roger Ebert’s list of the best films of 2007. He gives Juno the top slot.

Almost a year late, Roger Ebert shares

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 30, 2007

Almost a year late, Roger Ebert shares his top movies of 2006 with us.

Yes, I know it’s a year late, but a funny thing happened to me on the way to compiling a list of the best films of 2006. I checked into the hospital in late June 2006 and didn’t get out again until spring of 2007. For a long while, I just didn’t feel like watching movies. Then something revolved within me, and I was engaged in life again.

I’ve never met Ebert, but his love of movies resounds so emphatically from his writing that if he didn’t feel like watching them, he must have been closer than I thought to shuffling off the ol’ mortal coil. It’s nice to hear his enthusiasm again. (via crazymonk)

An incredible archive of all the televised

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 18, 2007

An incredible archive of all the televised reviews of Siskel and Ebert (and Roeper) after 1986. Here, for example, is Siskel and Ebert’s review of Die Hard from 1988. (thx, martin)

Some have advised Roger Ebert not to

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 25, 2007

Some have advised Roger Ebert not to attend his yearly film festival because of his changed physical appearance due to recent cancer surgery. Ebert says nuts to that…he may look a little strange, but his brain still works, his thumbs still go up and down, and he can type his columns just fine. “We spend too much time hiding illness. There is an assumption that I must always look the same. I hope to look better than I look now. But I’m not going to miss my festival.” I love Roger Ebert.

Roger Ebert’s been out of commission for

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 04, 2007

Roger Ebert’s been out of commission for the past few months due to cancer surgery, but he’s eager to return to his normal duties. “I still love writing about the movies. Forty years is not enough.”

David Denby talks about films with “disordered

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2007

David Denby talks about films with “disordered narratives”, with a special focus on the films of Guillermo Arriaga and Alejandro González Iñárritu: Amores Perros, 21 Grams, and Babel. Many of the films he mentioned are what Alissa Quart, Mark Bernstein, and Roger Ebert refer to as “hyperlink cinema” or “hypertext films”…too bad Denby didn’t use that term in his piece.

Interesting long profile of Roger Ebert.

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 30, 2005

Interesting long profile of Roger Ebert.

Ebert’s best movies of 2005. Crash tops the

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 22, 2005

Ebert’s best movies of 2005. Crash tops the list, which was probably my favorite from 2005 as well.

Chris Johanesen has a short review of

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 04, 2005

Chris Johanesen has a short review of the Eyebeam panel last night. “I’d certainly rather read an insightful and well-written post about sandwiches than an unoriginal, poorly thought out post about politics.” I like that Ebert quote too.

Among Roger Ebert’s most hated films are

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 15, 2005

Among Roger Ebert’s most hated films are Catwoman, Baby Geniuses, Battlefield Earth, and The Usual Suspects(?!?). About North, he says: “I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie.”