Roger Ebert

A Brief History of Film Artists Who Aren’t Doing This for Critics

Another late-summer weekend, more terrible news at the box office: according to Box Office Mojo, last weekend was the worst for movie-going in two years, and barely better than the worst of the last decade. The main reason: nothing to see, since the sole new wide release was a bizarre bit of faith-based Elvis fan fiction called The Identical. It couldn’t even crack the top ten, grossing a miserable $977 per screen, and who’s to blame? Film critics, who drubbed the movie (it’s currently sitting at four percent on Rotten Tomatoes) — at least according to co-star Ashley Judd, who used her Twitter feed to call The Identical “a beautiful, heartfelt movie cynics wait to excoriate & non critics/real people adore it!!” … Read More

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‘The Simpsons,’ ‘The Wire,’ and Why You Should Care About Cropped TV Shows

“I hold this truth to be self-evident, that all movies deserve to be seen in their original aspect ratios,” Roger Ebert wrote in 2001, describing a Chicago outdoor film series where classic movies were being “cropped” to create a widescreen presentation — leading, he fumed, to a screening of An American in Paris where “the projector was cutting off, among other things, Gene Kelly’s feet” and a Top Hat presentation “cutting off of the even more sublime feet of Astaire and Rogers.” That series was presented by HBO, who elected to screen the films in widescreen “so that people will not think we’re showing television.” That was 13 years ago, before HDTV put a wide screen in everyone’s living room, and now even television itself isn’t safe. Hard on the heels of FXX’s Simpsons marathon, which cropped all of the show’s pre-2009 episodes, HBO has announced a “remastering” of The Wire, and rumor has it that show will be cropped to widescreen as well. We’re seeing a trend here. And it’s a genuinely worrisome one. … Read More

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50 Essays Guaranteed to Make You a Better Person

It’s hard to be a person in the world today — or, really, any day, but today’s what we’ve got. Humans are striving creatures, and also empathetic ones, so most of us are always looking for an opportunity to improve ourselves, even in tiny, literary ways. We’ve already established that novels can make you a better person, but of course, novels also take you down a long winding road to get there. If you’re looking for a more direct shot to the heart, try an essay. After the jump, you’ll find 50 essays more or less guaranteed to make you a better person — or at least a better-read one — some recommended by notables of the literary and literary nonfiction world, some recommended by yours truly, incessant consumer of the written word. Don’t see the essay that changed your life? Please do add it to the list. … Read More

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25 Delightful Roger Ebert Quotes About Movies

The documentary Life Itself, a poignant tribute that celebrates Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert, was released in theaters this weekend. Generations grew up reading the Chicago Sun-Times journalist and watching him on television with sparring partner Gene Siskel, where the duo coined their “two thumbs up” phrase for positive reviews in the series At the Movies. Ebert’s barbed wit, grace, and passion touched the most discerning cineastes, but he was also known as a critic for the common man. He battled cancer for more than a decade, which necessitated the removal of his lower jaw, but it never stole his ability to write — which he did until his death last year. Two days before his passing, Ebert announced he was taking a “leave of presence” on RogerEbert.com. “What in the world is a leave of presence? It means I am not going away,” he wrote. And he hasn’t, leaving us with his beautiful words and wisdom about cinema and beyond. In celebration of the release of Life Itself, we’re revisiting some of Ebert’s most delightful quotes about one of his greatest loves — film. … Read More

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“I Give It Two Thumbs Up”: Chaz Ebert on ‘Life Itself’ and Her Husband, Roger Ebert

If you are a fan of the movies, if Siskel and Ebert’s At the Movies meant anything to you, if some sly wording by the late Roger Ebert in a column from his 46 years as The Chicago Sun-Times‘ film critic convinced you to see the film that changed your life, you should probably go see Life Itself, the new documentary about America’s film critic, in the theater. As his widow, Chaz Ebert, tells me over the phone, “I think it’s so poetic that a man like Roger, who spent his whole life reviewing movies, ends up ending his life on the big screen.” … Read More

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Flavorwire’s Guide to Indie Flicks to See in July

Last weekend, Transformers: Age of Extinction — Michael Bay’s latest, nearly-three-hour love letter to shit blowing up, orange women in short shorts, and editorial incoherence — grossed $300 million worldwide. In one weekend. If that information, and what it means for the ongoing dumbing-down and sequel-ization of mainstream moviemaking, isn’t enough to get you to the art house this month out of sheer principle, here are a few indie movies worth making the trek for as well. … Read More

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12 Abandoned Movies by Famous Screenwriters

Hollywood, this is why you can’t have nice things. A couple of weeks back, word broke that Quentin Tarantino had finished a new screenplay called The Hateful Eight, described as a Western with plum roles for recent Best Actor nominee (and Django Unchained bit player) Bruce Dern and Tarantino fave Christoph Waltz, and there was much rejoicing. That celebration ended earlier this week, when Tarantino discovered that the script had been leaked and pulled the plug on the entire project. But his unproduced script is in good company; here are a few other famous abandoned screenplays we’d love to have… Read More

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Sundance 2014: ‘Life Itself’ Is a Warm Tribute to Film, Criticism, and the Incomparable Roger Ebert

PARK CITY, UTAH: Roger Ebert was the first one to tell us that film criticism does not exist in a vacuum — that critics carry their personal experiences into the theater with them, and that not only should they not ignore those experiences, but they should use them. Yet for that reason, readers may be hard-pressed to find reviews of Life Itself, the new bio-documentary portrait of Mr. Ebert that premiered at Sundance this weekend, that are solely about the film. For many of us, Roger Ebert is the reason we write about films, his television work and books and online reviews inspiring us to be the kind of people who, well, would like to trudge through Utah for a week in January to see movies and write about them. No film in the festival is as critic-friendly; watching it, I finally understood how football players must feel about Brian’s Song. … Read More

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