Thursday, 29 March 2012

Roger Ebert - hero or villain?

My New Year's resolution this year was to watch the hundred films Roger Ebert recommends in his book, The great movies.  I chose this selection in preference to the transparent nationalism of the AFI 100 or the BFI 100 or the encyclopedic selection of David Thomson or of the punchy Sight and Sound polls (which are conducted every ten years - the next one is due this year).  The Ebert list offers a good range of genres, time-periods with nothing too populist (with a couple of exceptions) or too obscure or trendy.  Perhaps its a little dull?

You would think so, anyway, if you read the rebarbative review of Ebert's (admittedly unnecessary) memoir in Sight and Sound in January.  Michael Atkinson decries him as "more of an Everyman's pop-culture figurehead than a critic, in a nation that has little general use for film criticism beyond the crudest consumer recommendations."  Only in America, he suggests, would a newspaper film reviewer, "publish a 400-page autobiography in his autumnal phase."

As well as having recently published a memoir, Ebert is also the subject of an appraisal of his life and work in a new book (see below), which compares him to other prominent critics such as Pauline Kael and John Simon.  One imagines this gives a more balanced appraisal than Atkinson's review.

Further reading

1000 greatest films:

Ebert, R. (2004).  The great movies.  Broadway Books.   [You will find this conveniently located with the DVD collection on the second floor]

Haberski, R. J. (2001).  It's only a movie! Films and critics in American culture.  University Press of Kentucky.

Rendleman, T. (2012).  Rule of thumb; Ebert at the movies. Continuum.

Ebert's 100

2001: A Space Odyssey -- The 400 Blows -- 8 1/2 -- Aguirre, the Wrath of God -- Ali: Fear Eats the Soul -- All About Eve -- The Apartment -- Apocalypse Now -- The Apu Trilogy -- Battleship Potemkin -- Beauty and the Beast -- Belle de Jour -- The Bicycle Thief -- The Big Sleep -- Blowup -- Body Heat -- Bonnie and Clyde -- Bride of Frankenstein -- Broken Blossoms -- Casablanca -- Chinatown -- Citizen Kane -- City Lights -- Days of Heaven -- The Decalogue -- Detour -- Do the Right Thing -- Double Indemnity -- Dracula -- Dr. Stangelove -- Duck Soup -- E.T. -- The Exterminating Angel -- Fargo -- Floating Weeds -- Gates of Heaven -- The General -- The Godfather -- Gone with the Wind -- Grand Illusion -- Greed -- A Hard Day's Night -- Hoop Dreams -- Ikiru -- It's a Wonderful Life -- JFK -- La Dolce Vita -- The Lady Eve -- Last Year at Marienbad -- L'Atalante -- L'Avventura -- Lawrence of Arabia -- Le Samourai -- M -- The Maltese Falcon -- Manhattan -- McCabe & Mrs. Miller -- Metropolis -- Mr. Hulot's Holiday -- My Darling Clementine -- My Life to Live -- Nashville -- Network -- The Night of the Hunter -- Nosferatu -- Notorious -- On the Waterfront -- Pandora's Box -- The Passion of Joan of Arc -- Peeping Tom -- Persona -- Pickpocket -- Pinocchio -- Psycho -- Pulp Fiction -- Raging Bull -- Red River -- Schindler's List -- The Seven Samurai -- The Seventh Seal -- The Shawshank Redemption -- The Silence of the Lambs -- Singin' in the Rain -- Some Like It Hot -- Star Wars -- Sunset Blvd. -- Sweet Smell of Success -- Swing Time -- Taxi Driver -- The Third Man -- Trouble in Paradise -- Un Chien Andalou -- The "Up" Documentaries -- Vertigo -- The Wild Bunch -- Wings of Desire -- The Wizard of Oz -- Woman in the Dunes -- A Woman Under the Influence -- Written on the Wind.