Roger Ebert

20th Century Fox

This past weekend Life Itself, the Steve James-directed, Martin Scorsese-produced documentary that chronicles the life of Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert, grossed $138,000 in 23 theaters while boasting an impressive 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. Of course, this situation forced film critics to write about the film critic that — at least in some ways — inspired and influenced their careers (some of whom knew Ebert personally). Crafting a critical, objective analysis of a film is difficult when one is so deeply connected to the subject they’re analyzing. While praise predominantly permeated the airwaves last week, there have been some dissenting takes. These reviews, published at Slant Magazine, Pajiba, CinemaBlend.com and elsewhere, are outliers in a sea of positivity. And as every contemporary critic is painfully aware, challenging the consensus can be dangerous in the insular-minded, troll infested Internet age we inhabit — where incendiary thoughts are immediately deemed “contrarian” or “patently dishonest.” Unfortunately, Life Itself is no exception to this dangerous trend that discourages dialogue and engenders uniformity in opinions. The irony of this situation is rich, though. As the chief film critic at The Chicago Sun-Times for nearly have of cinema’s existence (from 1967 to his death), Ebert was a purveyor of discourse and a proponent of dissentient writing himself. Throughout his illustrious career, Ebert was unafraid to champion a film his contemporaries eviscerated, and vice versa. With that in mind, below are twelve films in which Ebert eloquently went against the grain.

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Seinfeld Finale

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Sintel Short Film

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Life Itself

First of all, there was no Steak and Shake anywhere in the building. Instead, last night’s special presentation of Steve James’ Roger Ebert-centric documentary, Life Itself, was partially put on by Piper-Heidsieck champagne (the high class bubbly maker has long been interested in film events, and are currently in the midst of celebrating their twentieth year of sponsoring the Cannes Film Festival) and pre-show bites were of the finger food variety, not of the juicy (and well-priced) burger and fry type. Ebert’s famously favorite food may have been absent from last night’s event, but Ebert himself was everywhere – and when his own wife Chaz Ebert spoke later in the evening about feeling his presence everywhere, it was hard to argue with the sentiment. While we may have just watched the final days of the revered film critic play out on the big screen, Ebert really was everywhere – and especially there. James’ documentary about Ebert is loosely structured around the critic’s own biography of the same name, termed a “companion piece” by one audience member, and it flips almost seamlessly between the various spheres of history and memory and Ebert’s life after his various health battles began in the early aughts. Even though James joked early on that his plan was to “rip off the memoir,” he soon found that the project was something else – “a real act of discovery” that relied on his ability (and Ebert’s interest) in being candid and honest in the present.

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Robert Ebert obit

Through his work documenting the lives of young athletic hopefuls in Hoop Dreams and community organizers attempting to curb street violence in The Interrupters, director Steve James has established himself as one of the most important windows through which the world has seen and understood the city of Chicago over the last few decades. The Windy City is a large and complex metropolis that contains more types of stories than just those that are occurring in its most struggling neighborhoods though, so James has a lot more work to do when it comes to fully dissecting the burg, and the most recent chunk of work he’s been doing is likely going to be of particular interest to fans of film. James has been hard at work putting together a documentary focused on the life of famed Chicago film critic Roger Ebert called Life Itself, which is loosely based off of Ebert’s engaging and insightful memoir of the same name. Sounds like something you’d probably want to see, right? Well, like with most things in life, there’s a catch. Now that James is deep in post-production on the film, he’s starting to run out of money, and he’s turned to IndieGoGo in order to acquire some financial help from fans so that he can apply all of the finishing touches. Unlike some of the more controversial uses of crowd funding to get a film made we’ve seen in the past though, this campaign is one that everyone is probably going to […]

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Ebert and Meyer

Years before At the Movies graced our televisions and “two thumbs up” ever entered our lexicon, Roger Ebert was still a third-string film critic at the Chicago Sun-Times who had a friend in filmmaker Russ Meyer. Now, their exploits as they teamed up to make Beyond the Valley of the Dolls are being brought to the big screen in Russ & Roger Go Beyond. The film, penned by Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons writer Christopher Cluess, focuses on the late 1960’s, when Meyer, already well-established as a master of pulp, decided to try his hand at a studio piece. Twentieth Century Fox handed him Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, and he agreed under the condition that Ebert write the script; he was a huge Ebert fan, as Ebert had written one of the only positive reviews he had ever received. From there, it was a major battle to make the movie they wanted as opposed to limiting themselves to the studios expectations. Hey, they had to know what they signed up for when they hired the director of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! to helm their film. There are going to be a lot of groovy babes engaging in questionable behavior and ratings boundaries being pushed (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls wound up getting an X rating).

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Jodorowsky Dune

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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EbertTiff

By the time of his death in April of this year, Roger Ebert had firmly established himself as being, among other things, the most famous film critic of all time. For decades, filmmakers and film fans from all over the world relied on Ebert’s writings and television broadcasts to not only illuminate us on what treasures the film world had available for us that we might not have already seen, but also to deepen our understanding and appreciation for the great works that we had. He was one of the voices who helped elevate the world of movies from being viewed as a commercially-driven entertainment racket to being to seen as a legitimate art form as worthy of dissection and discussion as any other, and because of that the film industry has taken every opportunity over the last few months to pay tribute to the man as often as possible. The most recent of these tributes came at the just-ended Telluride Film Festival, and now we have word [via Deadline] that the next is going to come during tomorrow night’s opening of the Toronto International Film Festival, where the fest is scheduled to begin with a video tribute to the esteemed critic—including comments from festival co-founder Bill Marshall, former festival director Helga Stephenson, producer Robert Lantos, and others—as well as with the presentation of a commemorative plaque to Ebert’s widow, Chaz. The plaque will match one that will also adorn a theater chair that has been dedicated to the legendary […]

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Captain America 2

We begin this evening’s Movie News After Dark shenanigans with Captain America stepping into the world of S.H.I.E.L.D for his tour in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It continues with plenty of movie chat, including great baseball flicks, Scary Movie 2, walking out of the theater and Vin Diesel driving a radio-controlled car. Or as we call it around here, just another Tuesday night.

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ebert cinemas

“Movie Houses of Worship” is a regular feature spotlighting our favorite movie theaters around the world, those that are like temples of cinema catering to the most religious-like film geeks. This week, we highlight the important theaters in Roger Ebert‘s life. If you’d like to suggest or submit a place you regularly worship at the altar of cinema, please email our weekend editor. The Art Theatre Location: 126 W. Church Street, Champaign, IL Opened: November 12, 1913, as The Park Theatre. Reopened as The Art on October 3, 1958. No. of screens: 1 Why Ebert worshipped here: “I learned about the art of film [here]…The atmosphere of the Art reflected the new beatnik culture of the ’50s, and to walk through the doors was like breathing the air of freedom. There wasn’t any popcorn for sale, but the coffee was free, black, and strong, and at the age of 16, sitting in the dark wired on caffeine and trying to puzzle through Ingmar Bergman’s Through a Glass Darkly, I felt I was on the brink of amazing discoveries about the world, life, and myself…I remember those movies at the Art so vividly. The posters outside, with their stark surrealistic images and bizarre typography. The earnest bohemians in the lobby, sipping their coffee and talking like the captions on ‘New Yorker’ cartoons. The notion that in a movie you had never heard of you could discover truths you had never dreamed.” [Entertainment Weekly, 1991] “At a time when the exhibition of art and independent films is in jeopardy, the […]

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super-mario-image-1

What started out with a bunch of foolish pranks and fun became a very sad week for the world of movie lovers. It’s terrible to lose any one of us, and surely many cinephiles die by the day, but this guy was among the biggest and most important. As it turns out, this week’s Reject Recap seems more filled with bad stories than good. Of course, it’s a week in which we saw a lot of recycling and — appropriately for the holiday that fell recently — resurrection of properties including Jurassic Park, Evil Dead and Finding Nemo. Looking over the list of the ten big stories, it’s a pretty disappointing time for us in general. Well, it’s not disappointing as a reader, as we hosted a bunch of great writing this week and also found some notable features by friends at other sites. Strewn through, we share some videos of Roger Ebert‘s reviews of films being discussed. Start your weekend right after the jump.

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Roger Ebert Young

When Roger Ebert replaced retired critic Eleanor Keane as head film critic for The Chicago Sun-Times in April 1967, American cinema was in the initial phase of a drastic transition. The Hays Code had recently been abolished after a slow decade of descent into irrelevance. With The Graduate, Hollywood began to rethink youth-oriented films in terms other than beach parties and Elvis movies. Art cinema from Europe and Japan were continuing to challenge the conventions of American cinema and the rigid expectations of American audiences. At the ripe young age of 25, Ebert displayed an open-minded approach to cinematic expression that he would practice for his whole career, as well as remarkable foresight regarding the significance of the cinematic moment during which he began full-time film criticism. Of Bonnie in Clyde, that inciting landmark of New Hollywood, Ebert wrote in September 1967, “Years from now it is quite possible that ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ will be seen as the definitive film of the 1960s, showing with sadness, humor, and unforgiving detail what one society had come to.” At the same time, Ebert was transparent about how far expertise could actually take the film critic in coming to an initial evaluation of difficult works. When he reviewed Bergman’s Persona that same year, he spent a good amount of his review simply describing the images onscreen without attempting explicit conclusions about their collective meaning. Ebert often revisited films, seeing criticism not as an act of definitive evaluation, but preferred seeing films as artistic […]

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Roger Ebert

Several people, none of whom have any ties to the film industry, reached out to me today to see how I was holding up in the wake of the news that Roger Ebert had passed away at age 70. These people don’t know that Ebert was a personal hero, or how special it was the lone time I met him, or how much his passion for movies and success in expressing it has paved the way for many of us who earn a living in a similar manner. They just know that I’m a movie person. To movie people, Roger Ebert was special. We’re not likely to see another like him again. So as fans and fellow movie lovers take to social media, blogs and traditional media outlets, all of which bear the mark of Ebert’s indelible voice, we take a moment here on Movie News After Dark to point out some of the best words written about a man whose words have inspired so many.

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Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert – film critic, journalist, screenwriter, and the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize, has passed away after a long battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife Chaz, along with a step-daughter and two step-grandchildren. The news comes just two days after Ebert posted on his own blog about taking as self-described “leave of presence” from some of his heavy workload to focus on new projects and movie reviews he was passionate about. His is a tremendous loss to the world of film, from critics to creators to fans. The news was first reported by Neil Steinberg at Ebert’s own home paper, The Chicago Sun-Times, and we point you to his lovely, thoughtful obituary for an indelible portrait of the man. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.

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Reject Recap: The Best of Film School Rejects

There’s at least one big piece of movie news you heard about this week. That’s right, Kevin Kline has finally been cast in the role he was born to play: Dakota Fanning‘s love interest. Oh, and you might have heard that J.J. Abrams is going to direct Star Wars Episode VII: Ewoks Suck, Dude. But with the holiday and the inauguration and the football championships and following the everlasting story of the fake girlfriend of Manti Te’o, you might not have been able to read every necessary film-related article or blog post on FSR or the rest of the Internet. Fortunately, as always, the Reject Recap is here to help. Playing a video of Beyonce’s performance from Monday on mute and pretending she’s reading the following words while you do the actual recitation out loud is recommended but not required.

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When you boil it all down, it’s all subjective. Movie critics are really just people who are better at communicating their opinions clearly, but they aren’t perfect all of the time. Nor are they psychics in any way. Sometimes time (and audiences) won’t going to agree with them, and that’s okay. As the following ten movies show us, there are times when a film isn’t an instant classic. Some require a bit more time to be broken in. Today’s trash might be tomorrow’s classic.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It happens nightly. It’s about movies. Sometimes television, too. It’s written by a guy who thinks he’s funny. He is often wrong. We begin this evening with a quick programming note. For the second time in the history of this column, we will be celebrating a week of guest entries. Once again, members of the FSR staff have come forward to pledge their swords to the battle for excellent nightly movie news link-dumps. I will be away doing my usual moving and shaking, while the likes of Nathan Adams, Kevin Carr, Luke Mullen, Kate Erbland and a doubtfully sober Robert Fure will be taking the reigns. I have faith that you will all survive their week of debauchery. I bid you to go with god. Above, Bane reacts to this news in a new image from The Dark Knight Rises.

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In his review of Mean Streets, Roger Ebert claimed that Martin Scorsese had the potential to become the American Fellini in ten years. It probably didn’t really take that long. Scorsese is a living library of film, but he isn’t a dusty repository of knowledge. He’s a vibrant, imaginative creator who might know more about movies than anyone else on the planet, and that makes him uniquely qualified to be both prolific and proficient. Over the course of his career, he’s created indelible works bursting with anger, violence, fragility, care, and wonder. Never content to stick with one story mode, he’s run the gamut of styles and substance. So here’s a free bit of film school (for filmmakers and fans alike) from our American Fellini.

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Ben Affleck in Argo

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly thing that collects things about movies, television and other things. Lots of things in store for you tonight, including some more Dark Knight Rises things… We begin tonight with an image of Ben Affleck as a real life former CIA agent from the early 1980s in Argo. In a way that can only be from the 1980s, he also looks like a Die Hard villain. So much mulleted intensity.

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Movie News: Justified Returns

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that doesn’t mess around. If it tells you to leave town or else it will shoot you on the spot, then you’d better believe that it will shoot you on the spot. Lucky for you, it would never ask you to leave town. All it asks is that you come back and read on a nightly basis. Or else. We open tonight with a bit of news for your boob tube. FX has set dates for the return of Justified and Archer, two favorite shows of mine. Both are coming back in January. They’ve also given the green light to an animated comedy called Unsupervised, which features the likes of Justin Long, Kristen Bell, Fred Armisen, Romany Malco, Kaitlin Olson and Alexa Vega. It’s about teens who are forced to navigate through life without parental supervision. Either way, did I mention that Justified is coming back? Walton Goggins, man…

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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