Topics Roger Ebert Quotations
Roger Ebert is a Chicago Sun-Times film critic.
As chance would have it, I have won the Pulitzer Prize, and so I am qualified. Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks."
- Of what use is freedom of speech to those who fear to offend?
- Roger Ebert's Movie Home Companion (1990 Edition), p. 735
- Well, what is a political film? A film about politicians? Or a film about issues — sexism, racism, the environment, nuclear policy? I decided on the broader definition. If I'd limited myself to films about politicians, it would have been a short list: How many characters in any mainstream American movie seem aware of the political process, or belong to a party?
- Ranking "the 20 best political films of the past two decades" in "The Big Picture: Roger Ebert" in MotherJones (May/June 1996)
- Many moviegoers and video viewers say they do not "like" black and white films. In my opinion, they are cutting themselves off from much of the mystery and beauty of the movies.
Black and white is an artistic choice, a medium that has strengths and traditions, especially in its use of light and shadow. Moviegoers of course have the right to dislike b&w, but it is not something they should be proud of. It reveals them, frankly, as cinematically illiterate.
I have been described as a snob on this issue. But snobs exclude; they do not include. To exclude b&w from your choices is an admission that you have a closed mind, a limited imagination, or are lacking in taste.
- First published in the "Movie Answer Man" column (25 July 2004)
- A depressing number of people seem to process everything literally. They are to wit as a blind man is to a forest, able to find every tree, but each one coming as a surprise.
- First published in the "Movie Answer Man" column (18 September 2005)
- I wear a pedometer, a little device that counts every step. It works as a goad, because you walk additional distances to pile up the numbers. The average person walks 2,000 to 3,000 steps a day. I walk 10,000 steps a day. I have lost a lot of weight as a result
- The Golden Thumb is not as good as the Oscar, but it is a lot of fun.
- "A Film Critic's Windy City Home' in The New York Times (13 February 2005)
- I lost faith in the Oscars the first year I was a movie critic--the year that Bonnie and Clyde didn't win.
- For 40 years, I didn't miss a single deadline, but since July, I have missed every one. I also, to my intense disappointment, missed the Telluride and Toronto film festivals. Having just written my first review since June (The Queen), I think an update is in order.
- I have discovered a goodness and decency in people as exhibited in all the letters, e-mails, flowers, gifts and prayers that have been directed my way. I am overwhelmed and humbled. I offer you my most sincere thanks and my deep and abiding gratitude. If I ever write my memoirs, I have some spellbinding material. How does the Joni Mitchell song go? "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone"? One thing I've discovered is that I love my job more than I thought I did, and I love my wife even more!
- "Roger writes to readers" Chicago Sun Times (11 October 2006)
Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert (2006)
- ISBN 0226182002
- I began my work as a film critic in 1967. I had not thought to be a film critic, and indeed had few firm career plans apart from vague notions that I might someday be a political columnist or a professor of English.
Robert Zonka, who was named the paper's feature editor the same day I was hired at the Chicago Sun-Times, became one of the best friends of a lifetime. One day in March 1967, he called me into a conference room, told me that Eleanor Keen, the paper's movie critic, was retiring, and that I was the new critic. I walked away in elation and disbelief, yet hardly suspected that this day would set the course for the rest of my life.
- I began my work as a film critic in 1967. I had not thought to be a film critic, and indeed had few firm career plans apart from vague notions that I might someday be a political columnist or a professor of English.
- In my very first review I was already jaded, observing of "Galia," an obscure French film, that it "opens and closes with arty shots of the ocean, mother of us all, but in between it's pretty clear that what is washing ashore is the French New Wave." My pose in those days was one of superiority to the movies, although just when I had the exact angle of condescension calculated, a movie would open that disarmed my defenses and left me ecstatic and joyful.
- Herzog by his example gave me a model for the film artist: fearless, driven by his subjects, indifferent to commercial considerations, trusting his audience to follow him anywhere. In the 38 years since I saw my first Herzog film, after an outpouring of some 50 features and documentaries, he has never created a single film that is compromised, shameful, made for pragmatic reasons or uninteresting. Even his failures are spectacular.
Your Movie Sucks (2007)
- ISBN 0740763660
- Some of these reviews were written in joyous zeal. Others with glee. Some in sorrow, some in anger, and a precious few with venom, of which I have a closely guarded supply. When I am asked, all too frequently, if I really sit all the way through these movies, my answer is inevitably: Yes, because I want to write the review.
I would guess that I have not mentioned my Pulitzer Prize in a review except once or twice since 1975, but at the moment I read Rob Schneider's extremely unwise open letter to Patrick Goldstein, I knew I was receiving a home-run pitch, right over the plate. Other reviews were written in various spirits, some of them almost benevolently, but of Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, all I can say is that it is a movie made to inspire the title of a book like this.
Zero star reviews
- I had a colonoscopy once, and they let me watch it on TV. It was more entertaining than The Brown Bunny.
- Review of an early version of The Brown Bunny, when it was shown at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival (4 June 2003)
- After director Vincent Gallo responded to the above criticism by mocking Ebert's obesity, Ebert responded: "It is true that I am fat, but one day I will be thin, and he will still be the director of The Brown Bunny." http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20030604/FILMFESTIVALS01/66010303 (4 June 2003)
- Review of an early version of The Brown Bunny, when it was shown at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival (4 June 2003)
- Caligula is sickening, utterly worthless, shameful trash. If it is not the worst film I have ever seen, that makes it all the more shameful: People with talent allowed themselves to participate in this travesty. Disgusted and unspeakably depressed, I walked out of the film after two hours of its 170-minute length. That was on Saturday night, as a line of hundreds of people stretched down Lincoln Ave., waiting to pay $7.50 apiece to become eyewitnesses to shame..."This movie," said the lady in front of me at the drinking fountain, "is the worst piece of shit I have ever seen."
- Deuce Bigalow is aggressively bad, as if it wants to cause suffering to the audience. The best thing about it is that it runs for only 75 minutes. … Does this sound like a movie you want to see? It sounds to me like a movie that Columbia Pictures and the film's producers … should be discussing in long, sad conversations with their inner child.
- The movie created a spot of controversy... Rob Schneider took offense when Patrick Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times listed this year's Best Picture nominees and wrote that they were "ignored, unloved, and turned down flat by most of the same studios that ... bankroll hundreds of sequels, including a follow-up to Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, a film that was sadly overlooked at Oscar time because apparently nobody had the foresight to invent a category for Best Running Penis Joke Delivered by a Third-Rate Comic."
Schneider retaliated by attacking Goldstein in full-page ads in Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter. In an open letter to Goldstein, Schneider wrote: "Well, Mr. Goldstein, I decided to do some research to find out what awards you have won. I went online and found that you have won nothing. Absolutely nothing. No journalistic awards of any kind. ... Maybe you didn't win a Pulitzer Prize because they haven't invented a category for Best Third-Rate, Unfunny Pompous Reporter Who's Never Been Acknowledged by His Peers...
As chance would have it, I have won the Pulitzer Prize, and so I am qualified. Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks."
- Review of Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo (12 August 2005)
- Dirty Love wasn't written and directed, it was committed. Here is a film so pitiful, it doesn't rise to the level of badness. It is hopelessly incompetent... I am not certain that anyone involved has ever seen a movie, or knows what one is.
- Review of Dirty Love (23 September 2005)
- This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels.
- Review of Freddy Got Fingered (20 April 2001)
- This is a plot, if ever there was one, to illustrate King Lear's complaint, "As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods; They kill us for their sport." I am aware this is the second time in two weeks I have been compelled to quote Lear, but there are times when Eminem simply will not do.
- Review of The Life of David Gale (21 February 2003)
- Little Indian, Big City is one of the worst movies ever made. I detested every moronic minute of it...if you, under any circumstances, see Little Indian, Big City, I will never let you read one of my reviews again.
- Review of Little Indian, Big City (22 March 1996)
- Mad Dog Time is the first movie I have seen that does not improve on the sight of a blank screen viewed for the same length of time. Oh, I've seen bad movies before. But they usually made me care about how bad they were. Watching Mad Dog Time is like waiting for the bus in a city where you're not sure they have a bus line...Mad Dog Time should be cut into free ukulele picks for the poor.
- Review of Mad Dog Time (29 November 1996)
- I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.
- The vast majority of the members of all religions, I believe and would argue, don't want to kill anybody. They want to love and care for their families, find decent work that sustains life and comfort, live in peace and get along with their neighbors. It is a deviant streak in some humans, I suspect, that drives them toward self-righteous violence, and uses religion as a convenient alibi... I am trying as hard as I can to imagine the audience for this movie. Every time I make any progress, it scares me.
- Review of September Dawn (24 August 2007)
- The movie is an exhausted retread of the old campus romance gag where the pretty girl almost believes the lies of the reprehensible schemer, instead of trusting the nice guy who loves her. The only originality the movie brings to this formula is to make it incomprehensible, through the lurching incompetence of its story structure. Details are labored while the big picture remains unpainted... I was appalled by the poverty of its imagination.
- Review of Slackers (1 February 2002)
- Sour Grapes is a comedy about things that aren't funny. It reminded me of Crash, an erotic thriller about things no one finds erotic. The big difference is that David Cronenberg, who made Crash, knew that people were not turned on by auto accidents. Larry David, who wrote and directed Sour Grapes, apparently thinks people are amused by cancer, accidental castration, racial stereotypes and bitter family feuds... The more I think of it, the more Sour Grapes really does resemble Crash (except that Crash was not a bad film). Both movies are like watching automobile accidents. Only one was intended to be.
- Review of Sour Grapes (17 April 1998)
- I like good horror movies. They can exorcise our demons. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre doesn't want to exorcise anything. It wants to tramp crap through our imaginations and wipe its feet on our dreams. I think of filmgoers on a date, seeing this movie and then -- what? I guess they'll have to laugh at it, irony being a fashionable response to the experience of being had. ... Do yourself a favor. There are a lot of good movies playing right now that can make you feel a little happier, smarter, sexier, funnier, more excited -- or more scared, if that's what you want. This is not one of them. Don't let it kill 98 minutes of your life.
- Review of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (17 October 2003)
- I had a hard time watching Wolf Creek. It is a film with one clear purpose: To establish the commercial credentials of its director by showing his skill at depicting the brutal tracking, torture and mutilation of screaming young women. When the killer severs the spine of one of his victims and calls her "a head on a stick," I wanted to walk out of the theater and keep on walking.
- Review of Wolf Creek (23 December 2005)
- Boat Trip arrives preceded by publicity saying many homosexuals have been outraged by the film. Now that it's in theaters, everybody else has a chance to join them. Not that the film is outrageous. That would be asking too much. It is dim-witted, unfunny, too shallow to be offensive, and way too conventional to use all of those people standing around in the background wearing leather and chains and waiting hopefully for their cues. This is a movie made for nobody, about nothing.
- Only enormously talented people could have made Death to Smoochy. Those with lesser gifts would have lacked the nerve to make a film so bad, so miscalculated, so lacking any connection with any possible audience.
- Review of Death to Smoochy (29 March 2002)
- "This sucks on so many levels."
- The movie stars six teenage characters who have been marketed on TV and in toy stores. They have names, but no discernible personalities. None of them ever says anything more interesting than "You guys!" As teenagers, they are skilled in-line skaters and karate fighters, but they don't get their real powers until they turn into faceless clones in Power Rangers uniforms with plastic masks and helmets. Is that the message? Faceless conformity is the way to success? Certainly the Rangers are not individuals in or out of uniform, but I wonder if they don't represent a triumph of merchandising over creativity. Children's heroes have traditionally been individualistic and eccentric. The Rangers are not, properly speaking, even characters. They are color-coded products...Paging through the movie's press kit, I came across this quote attributed to Amy Jo Johnson, who plays Kimberly, the Pink Power Ranger: " `Mighty Morphin Power Rangers™: The Movie' is a mix between Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz. " I wonder if Amy Jo actually said "TM" when she was delivering that wonderfully fresh and spontaneous quote, which is so much more involved than anything she says in the movie. More to the point, I wonder if she has ever seen "Star Wars" or "The Wizard of Oz."
- Review of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie (30 June 1995)
- Parents: If you encounter teenagers who say they liked this movie, do not let them date your children.
- Review of Resident Evil: Apocalypse (10 September 2004)
- Some of the acting is better than the film deserves. Make that all of the acting. Actually, the film stock itself is better than the film deserves. You know when sometimes a film catches fire inside a projector? If it happened with this one, I suspect the audience might cheer.
- Saving Silverman is so bad in so many different ways that perhaps you should see it, as an example of the lowest slopes of the bell-shaped curve. This is the kind of movie that gives even its defenders fits of desperation. Consider my friend James Berardinelli, the best of the Web-based critics. No doubt 10 days of oxygen deprivation at the Sundance Film Festival helped inspire his three-star review, in which he reports optimistically, "Saving Silverman" has its share of pratfalls and slapstick moments, but there's almost no flatulence." Here's a critical rule of thumb: You know you're in trouble when you're reduced to praising a movie for its absence of fart jokes, and have to add "almost"... as for Neil Diamond, Saving Silverman is his first appearance in a fiction film since The Jazz Singer, and one can only marvel that he waited 20 years to appear in a second film, and found one even worse than his first one.
- Review of Saving Silverman (9 February 2001)
- The Spice Girls are easier to tell apart than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but that is small consolation: What can you say about five women whose principal distinguishing characteristic is that they have different names? They occupy Spice World as if they were watching it: They're so detached they can't even successfully lip-synch their own songs. During a rehearsal scene, their director tells them, with such truth that we may be hearing a secret message from the screenwriter, "That was absolutely perfect--without being actually any good." Spice World is obviously intended as a ripoff of A Hard Day's Night which gave The Beatles to the movies...the huge difference, of course, is that the Beatles were talented--while, let's face it, the Spice Girls could be duplicated by any five women under the age of 30 standing in line at Dunkin' Donuts.
- Review of Spice World (23 January 1998)
- I remember when hard-core first became commonplace, and there were discussions about what it would be like if a serious director ever made a porn movie. The answer, judging by Anatomy of Hell, is that the audience would decide they did not require such a serious director after all.
- Review of Anatomy of Hell (12 November 2004)
- Here it is at last, the first 150-minute trailer. Armageddon is cut together like its own highlights. Take almost any 30 seconds at random, and you'd have a TV ad. The movie is an assault on the eyes, the ears, the brain, common sense, and the human desire to be entertained. No matter what they're charging to get in, it's worth more to get out.
- Review of Armageddon (1 July 1998)
- Blue Velvet contains scenes of such raw emotional energy that it's easy to understand why some critics have hailed it as a masterpiece. A film this painful and wounding has to be given special consideration.
- Review of Blue Velvet (19 September 1986)
- The Bucket List is a movie about two old codgers who are nothing like people, both suffering from cancer that is nothing like cancer, and setting off on adventures that are nothing like possible. I urgently advise hospitals: Do not make the DVD available to your patients; there may be an outbreak of bedpans thrown at TV screens.
- Review of The Bucket List (10 January 2008)
- The director, whose name is Pitof, was probably issued with two names at birth and would be wise to use the other one on his next project.
- I've been reviewing movies for a long time, and I can't think of one that more dramatically shoots itself in the foot.
- Review of Diary of a Mad Black Woman (25 February 2005)
- The result is a horrible mess of a movie, without shape, trajectory or purpose--a one joke movie, if it had one joke. The two characters wander witlessly past the bizarre backdrops of Las Vegas (some real, some hallucinated, all interchangeable) while zonked out of their minds. Humor depends on attitude. Beyond a certain point, you don't have an attitude, you simply inhabit a state. I've heard a lot of funny jokes about drunks and druggies, but these guys are stoned beyond comprehension, to the point where most of their dialog could be paraphrased as "eh?"... As for Depp, what was he thinking he made this movie? He was once in trouble for trashing a New York hotel room, just like the heroes of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. What was that? Research? After River Phoenix died of an overdose outside Depp's club, you wouldn't think Depp would see much humor in this story--but then, of course, there *isn't* much humor in this story.
- Review of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (22 May 1998)
- Last year, I reviewed a nine-hour documentary about the lives of Mongolian yak herdsmen, and I would rather see it again than sit through The Frighteners.
- Review of The Frighteners (19 July 1996)
- There is a word for this movie, and that word is: Ick.
- Review of Good Luck Chuck (21 September 2007)
- The best shot in this film is the first one. Not a good sign... After the screening was over and the lights went up, I observed a couple of my colleagues in deep and earnest conversation, trying to resolve twists in the plot. They were applying more thought to the movie than the makers did. A critic's mind is a terrible thing to waste.
- Review of I Know What You Did Last Summer (17 October 1997)
- Terri (Hilary Duff)'s new roommate is Denise (Dana Davis), who plans to work hard for a scholarship, and resents [Duff] as a distraction. Sizing up Terri's wardrobe and her smile, she tells her: "You're like some kind of retro Brady Buncher." I hate it when a movie contains its own review.
- Review of Raise Your Voice (8 October 2004)
- If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination... The movie has been signed by Michael Bay. This is the same man who directed The Rock in 1996. Now he has made Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Faust made a better deal.
- Review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (23 June 2009)
- Wild Wild West is a comedy dead zone. You stare in disbelief as scenes flop and die. The movie is all concept and no content; the elaborate special effects are like watching money burn on the screen. You know something has gone wrong when a story is about two heroes in the Old West, and the last shot is of a mechanical spider riding off into the sunset.
- Review of Wild Wild West (30 June 1999)
- There have been articles lately asking why the United States is so hated in some parts of the world. As this week's Exhibit A from Hollywood, I offer Zoolander, a comedy about a plot to assassinate the prime minister of Malaysia because of his opposition to child labor. You might want to read that sentence twice. The logic: Child labor is necessary to the economic health of the fashion industry, and so its opponents must be eliminated...if the Malaysians made a comedy about the assassination of the president of the United States because of his opposition to slavery, it would seem approximately as funny to us as Zoolander would seem to them.
- Review of Zoolander (28 September 2001)
One-and-a-half star reviews
- In the upstairs bedroom, old Ann dies very slowly, remembering the events of the long-ago wedding night and the next morning...She is attended by a nurse with an Irish accent (Eileen Atkins), who sometimes prompts her: "Remember a happy time!" Dissolve to Ann's memory of a happy time. It is so mundane that if it qualifies as a high point in her life, it compares with Paris Hilton remembering a good stick of gum.
- Going to see Godzilla at the Palais of the Cannes Film Festival is like attending a satanic ritual in St. Peter's Basilica. It's a rebuke to the faith that the building represents. Cannes touchingly adheres to a belief that film can be intelligent, moving and grand. Godzilla is a big, ugly, ungainly device to give teenagers the impression they are seeing a movie. It was the festival's closing film, coming at the end like the horses in a parade, perhaps for the same reason.
- I saw The Lonely Guy all by myself. It was one of those Saturday afternoons where the snow is coming down gray and mean, and you can't even get a decent recorded message on the answering machines of strangers ... "Good luck," an usher told me. "You're going to need it." He was right ... The Lonely Guy is the kind of movie that seems to have been made to play in empty theaters on overcast January afternoons ... [It] is the kind of movie that inspires you to distract yourself by counting the commercial products visible on the screen, and speculating about whether their manufacturers paid fees to have them worked into the movie. I counted two Diet 7-Ups, two Tabs, and Steve Martin.
- Review of The Lonely Guy (1 January 1984)
- We can laugh at comedies like this for two reasons: Because we feel superior to the characters, or because we pity or like them. I do not much like laughing down at people, which is why the comedies of Adam Sandler make me squirmy (most people, I know, laugh because they like him). In the case of Napoleon Dynamite, I certainly don't like him, but then the movie makes no attempt to make him likable. Truth is, it doesn't even try to be a comedy. It tells his story and we are supposed to laugh because we find humor the movie pretends it doesn't know about.
- Review of Napoleon Dynamite (18 June 2004)
- Pearl Harbor is a two-hour movie squeezed into three hours, about how on December 7, 1941, the Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle. Its centerpiece is 40 minutes of redundant special effects, surrounded by a love story of stunning banality. The film has been directed without grace, vision, or originality, and although you may walk out quoting lines of dialog, it will not be because you admire them.
- Review of Pearl Harbor (25 May 2001)
- It's like the high school production of something you saw at Steppenwolf, with the most gifted students in drama class playing the John Malkovich and Joan Allen roles.
- Review of The Pink Panther (10 February 2006)
- Attending this new version, I felt oddly as if I were watching a provincial stock company doing the best it could without the Broadway cast. I was reminded of the child prodigy who was summoned to perform for a famous pianist. The child climbed onto the piano stool and played something by Chopin with great speed and accuracy. The great musician then patted the child on the head and said, 'You can play the notes. Someday, you may be able to play the music.'
- Here's a movie that stretches out every moment for more than it's worth, until even the moments of inspiration seem forced. Since the basic idea of the movie is a good one and there are talented people in the cast, what we have here is a film shot down by its own forced and mannered style.
- Review of Raising Arizona (20 March 1987)
Two star reviews
- Since the scenes where they're together are so much less convincing than the ones where they fall apart, watching the movie is like being on a double-date from hell.
- Review of The Break-Up (2 June 2006)
- I know that the real Brockovich liked to dress provocatively; that's her personal style and she's welcome to it. But the Hollywood version makes her look like a miniskirted hooker, with bras that peek cheerfully above her necklines.
- Review of Erin Brockovich (17 March 2000)
- By the end of this long film, I would have traded any given gladiatorial victory for just one shot of blue skies... Gladiator lacks joy. It employs depression as a substitute for personality, and believes that if the characters are bitter and morose enough, we won't notice how dull they are.
- Review of Gladiator (5 May 2000)
- It was W. C. Fields who hated to appear in the same scene with a child, a dog, or a plunging neckline - because nobody in the audience would be looking at him. Jennifer Aniston has the same problem in this movie even when she's in scenes all by herself.
- Review of Picture Perfect (1 August 1997)
- Showgirls is the first big-budget "adults only" movie in a few years and, to be sure, it contains so much nudity that the sexy paarts are when the girls put on their clothes. It contains no true eroticism, however, and that's why I think it reflects a grounding in sexual fantasy: Eroticism requires a mental connection between two people, while masturbation requires only the other person's image.
- Troy is based on the epic poem The Iliad by Homer, according to the credits. Homer's estate should sue.
- Philip Kaufman's Twisted walks like a thriller and talks like a thriller, but it squawks like a turkey.
But back to deus ex machina. This is a phrase you will want to study and master, not merely to amaze friends during long bus journeys but because it so perfectly describes what otherwise might take you thousands of words. Imagine a play on a stage. The hero is in a fix. The dragon is breathing fire, his sword is broken, his leg is broken, his spirit is broken, and the playwright's imagination is broken. Suddenly there is the offstage noise of the grinding of gears, and invisible machinery lowers a god onto the stage, who slays the dragon, heals the hero, and fires the playwright. He is the "god from the machine."
- Review of Twisted (27 February 2004)
Two-and-a-half star reviews
- A movie should present its characters with a problem and then watch them solve it, not without difficulty. So says an old and reliable screenplay formula. Countless movies have been made about a boy and a girl who have a problem (they haven't slept with each other) and after difficulties (family, war, economic, health, rival lover, stupid misunderstanding) they solve it by sleeping with each other. Now we have a movie about two homosexuals that follows the same reliable convention.
- Review of Latter Days (13 February 2004)
- I could list some Japanese films illustrating this, but the last thing the audience for Memoirs of a Geisha wants to see is a more truthful film with less gorgeous women and shabbier production values.
- Review of Memoirs of a Geisha (9 December 2005)
- I do not demand that all movies have a story to pull us from beginning to end, and indeed one of the charms of The Big Lebowski, the Coens' previous film, is how its stoned hero loses track of the thread of his own life. But with O Brother, Where Are Thou? I had the sense of invention set adrift; of a series of bright ideas wondering why they had all been invited to the same film.
- Review of O Brother, Where Art Thou? (29 Dec 2000)
- Now that we know Quentin Tarantino can make a movie like Reservoir Dogs, it's time for him to move on and make a better one.
- Review of Reservoir Dogs (26 October 1992
- To know me is to love me. This cliche is popular for a reason, because most of us, I imagine, believe deep in our hearts that if anyone truly got to know us, they'd truly get to love us - or at least know why we're the way we are. The problem in life, maybe the central problem, is that so few people ever seem to have sufficient curiosity to do the job on us that we know we deserve.
- Review of Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (25 May 1990)
Three star reviews
- As I swim through the summer tide of vulgarity, I find that's what I'm looking for: Movies that at least feel affection for their characters. Raunchy is OK. Cruel is not.
- Review of American Pie (July 9, 1999)
- One hopeful sign that the filmmakers can learn and grow is that the sequel does not contain a single pie, if you know what I mean.
- Review of American Pie 2 (August 10, 2001)
- The movie cheerfully offends all civilized notions of taste, decorum, manners and hygiene... is the movie vulgar? Vulgarity is when we don't laugh. When we laugh, it's merely human nature.
- Review of American Wedding (August 1, 2003)
- The beautiful Monique insists on joining their expedition and cannot be dissuaded; we think at first she has a nefarious motive, but no, she's probably taken a class in screenplay construction and knows that the film requires a sexy female lead. This could be the first case in cinematic history of a character voluntarily entering a movie because of the objective fact that she is required.
- Review of Around The World In 80 Days (2004) (June 16, 2004)
- ...it is widely but wrongly believed that Beavis and Butt-Head celebrates its characters, and applauds their sublime lack of values, taste and intelligence. I've never thought so. I believe Mike Judge would rather die than share a taxi ride to the airport with his characters--that for him, B&B function like Dilbert's co-workers in the Scott Adams universe. They are a target for his anger against the rising tide of stupidity.
- Review of Beavis and Butthead Do America (December 20, 1996)
- This sort of scenario has happened, I imagine, millions of times. It has rarely happened in a nicer, sweeter, more gentle way than in Richard Linklater's "Before Sunrise," which I could call a "Love Affair" for Generation X, except that Jesse and Celine stand outside their generation, and especially outside its boring insistence on being bored.
The R rating for this film, based on a few four-letter words, is entirely unjustified. It is an ideal film for teenagers.
- Review of Before Sunrise (January 27, 1995)
- Censors feel they are safe from objectionable material but must protect others who are not as smart or moral. The same impulse tempts the reviewer of 'The Believer'... If the wrong people get the wrong message - well, there has never been any shortage of wrong messages. Or wrong people.
- Review of The Believer (June 14, 2002)
- In Blue Crush, we meet three Hawaiian surfers who work as hotel maids, live in a grotty rental, and are raising the kid sister of one of them. Despite this near-poverty, they look great; there is nothing like a tan and a bikini to overcome class distinctions.
- Review of Blue Crush (August 16, 2002)
- Much has been written about Generation X and the films about it. Clerks is so utterly authentic that its heroes have never heard of their generation. When they think of "X," it's on the way to the video store.
- ...If there's one thing I've learned in this life, it's that you never say no to an old gypsy woman with a blind eye and leprous fingernails.
- Review of Drag Me to Hell (June 7, 2009)
- I read all the movie reviews, especially those of Ebert, a graceful and witty prose stylist with profound erudition, whose reviews are worth reading just for themselves, whether or not I have any intention of viewing the movie ... Ebert, the smart and handsome one, gave thumbs up to my first movie Garfield: The Movie], but [Richard] Roeper, the other one, gave thumbs down and was particularly unkind. He went on forever attacking Ebert for liking Garfield. This from a man with enough taste to praise Duma. How very disappointing. One of Roeper's complaints was that I was animated and all of the other characters in the movie were "real." Do you have any idea how a statement like that hurts an actor who has worked all of his life as a media cat? Yes, Richard Roeper, I was animated. Read my lips: I am a character in a comic strip.
- Review of Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, written in the first person as Garfield. (June 16, 2006)
- I arrive at the end of this review having done my duty as a critic. I have described the movie accurately and you have a good idea what you are in for if you go to see it. Most of you will not. I cannot argue with you. Some of you will--the brave and the curious. You embody the spirit of the man who first wondered what it would taste like to eat an oyster.
- Review of Gerry (February 28, 2003)
- You should never send an expert to a movie about his specialty. Boxers hate boxing movies. Space buffs said 'Apollo 13' showed the wrong side of the moon. The British believe Mel Gibson's scholarship was faulty in 'Braveheart' merely because some of the key characters hadn't been born at the time of the story. 'Hackers' is, I have no doubt, deeply dubious in the computer science department. While it is no doubt true that in real life no hacker could do what the characters in this movie do, it is no doubt equally true that what hackers can do would not make a very entertaining movie.
- Review of Hackers (September 15, 1995)
- Most people choose movies that provide exactly what they expect, and tell them things they already know. Others are more curious. We are put on this planet only once, and to limit ourselves to the familiar is a crime against our minds.
- I recently published a book about movies I hated, and people have been asking me which reviews are harder to write--those about great movies, or those about terrible ones. The answer is neither. The most unreviewable movies are those belonging to the spoof genre--movies like Airplane! and The Naked Gun and all the countless spin-offs and retreads of the same basic idea... the bottom line in reviewing a movie like this is, does it work? Is it funny? Yes, it is. Not funny with the shocking impact of Airplane! which had the advantage of breaking new ground. But also not a tired wheeze like some of the lesser and later Leslie Nielsen films. To get your money's worth, you need to be familiar with the various teenage horror franchises, and if you are, Scary Movie delivers the goods.
- Review of Scary Movie (July 7, 2000)
- The star rating system is relative, not absolute. When you ask a friend if Hellboy is any good, you're not asking if it's any good compared to Mystic River, you're asking if it's any good compared to The Punisher. And my answer would be, on a scale of one to four, if Superman (1978) is four, then Hellboy is three and The Punisher is two. In the same way, if American Beauty gets four stars, then Leland clocks in at about two.
- Review of Shaolin Soccer (April 23, 2004)
- Khan is played as a cauldron of resentment by Ricardo Montalban, and his performance is so strong that he helps illustrate a general principle involving not only Star Trek but Star Wars and all the epic serials, especially the James Bond movies: Each film is only as good as its villain. Since the heroes and the gimmicks tend to repeat from film to film, only a great villain can transform a good try into a triumph.
- Review of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (January 1, 1982)
- Wild Things is lurid trash, with a plot so twisted they're still explaining it during the closing titles. It's like a three-way collision between a softcore sex film, a soap opera and a B-grade noir. I liked it. Movies such as this either entertain or offend audiences; there's no neutral ground. Either you're a connoisseur of melodramatic comic vulgarity, or you're not. You know who you are. I don't want to get any postcards telling me this movie is in bad taste. I'm warning you: It is in bad taste. Bad taste elevated to the level of demented sleaze.
- Review of Wild Things (March 20, 1998)
Three-and-a-half star reviews
- Burt and Verona are two characters rarely seen in the movies: thirtysomething, educated, healthy, self-employed, gentle, thoughtful, whimsical, not neurotic and really truly in love. Their great concern is finding the best place and way to raise their child, who is a bun still in the oven. For every character like this I’ve seen in the last 12 months, I’ve seen 20, maybe 30, mass murderers.
- Review of Away We Go (10 June 2009)
- Occasionally an unsuspecting innocent will stumble into a movie like this and send me an anguished postcard, asking how I could possibly give a favorable review to such trash. My stock response is Ebert's Law, which reads: A movie is not about what it is about. It is about how it is about it.
- Review of Freeway (24 January 1997)
- Rarely has a movie this expensive provided so many quotable lines.
- Review of Ghostbusters (1 January 1984)
- Anna’s reaction is more complex than you might imagine, and it’s at such a moment you appreciate the woman in the writer-director’s chair. Women, I suspect, are more likely than men to view sex from the over-all perspective of what we may call their lives. In a country like Saudi Arabia, whose citizens express discomfort about men and women even attending movies together, I have little doubt which gender is more concerned.
- After seeing "Orphan," I now realize that Damien of "The Omen" was a model child. The Demon Seed was a bumper crop. Rosemary would have been happy to have this baby.
Do not, under any circumstances, take children to see it. Take my word on this.
- The movie delights me with its cocky confidence that the audience can keep up. Primer is a film for nerds, geeks, brainiacs, Academic Decathlon winners, programmers, philosophers and the kinds of people who have made it this far into the review. It will surely be hated by those who 'go to the movies to be entertained', and embraced and debated by others, who will find it entertains the parts the others do not reach.
- Life's missed opportunities, at the end, may seem more poignant to us than those we embraced--because in our imagination they have a perfection that reality can never rival.
- Review of The Sleepy Time Gal (22 November 2002)
- This movie was made by professionals. Do not attempt any of this behavior yourself.
- To call it weird would be a cowardly evasion. It is creepy, eccentric, eerie, flaky, freaky, funky, grotesque, inscrutable, kinky, kooky, magical, oddball, spooky, uncanny, uncouth and unearthly. Especially uncouth. What I did was, I typed the word 'weird' and when that wholly failed to evoke the feelings the film stirred in me, I turned to the thesaurus and it suggested the above substitutes - and none of them do the trick, either.
- Review of The Triplets of Belleville (26 December 2003)
- It is an interesting law of romance that a truly strong woman will chose a strong man who disagrees with her over a weak one who goes along. Strength demands intelligence, intelligence demands stimulation, and weakness is boring. It is better to find a partner you can contend with for a lifetime than one who accommodates you because he doesn't really care. ... Sixty seconds of wondering if someone is about to kiss you is more entertaining than 60 minutes of kissing. ... Spill the beans, and the conversation is history. Speak in code, with wit and challenge, and the process of decryption is like foreplay.
- Review of The Winslow Boy (28 May 1999)]
- Is xXx a threat to the Bond franchise? Not a threat so much as a salute. I don't want James Bond to turn crude and muscular on me; I like the suave style. But I like Xander, too, especially since he seems to have studied Bond so very carefully.
Four star ratings
- Why did they give an R rating to a movie perfect for teenagers?
- Review of Almost Famous (15 September 2000)
- I said this is the Batman movie I've been waiting for; more correctly, this is the movie I did not realize I was waiting for, because I didn't realize that more emphasis on story and character and less emphasis on high-tech action was just what was needed. The movie works dramatically in addition to being an entertainment. There's something to it.
- Review of Batman Begins (13 June 2005)
- Dances With Wolves has the kind of vision and ambition that is rare in movies today. It is not a formula movie, but a thoughtful, carefully observed story. It is a Western at a time when the Western is said to be dead. It asks for our imagination and sympathy. It takes its time, three hours, to unfold. It is a personal triumph for Kevin Costner, the intelligent young actor of Field of Dreams, who directed the film and shows a command of story and of visual structure that is startling; this movie moves so confidently and looks so good it seems incredible that it's a directorial debut.
- Review of Dances With Wolves (9 November 1990)
- Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking sound bites to support it. "Wouldn't you say," she asked, "that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?" No, I said, I wouldn't say that. "But what about Basketball Diaries?" she asked. "Doesn't that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machine gun?" The obscure 1995 Leonardo Di Caprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office (it grossed only $2.5 million), and it's unlikely the Columbine killers saw it. The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. "Events like this," I said, "if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn't have messed with me. I'll go out in a blaze of glory."
In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of "explaining" them. I commended the policy at the Sun-Times, where our editor said the paper would no longer feature school killings on Page 1. The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.
- Review of Elephant (7 November 2003)
- It's so rare to find a movie that doesn't take sides. Conflict is said to be the basis of popular fiction, and yet here is a film that seizes us with its first scene and never lets go, and we feel sympathy all the way through for everyone in it. To be sure, they sometimes do bad things, but the movie understands them and their flaws. Like great fiction, House of Sand and Fog sees into the hearts of its characters, and loves and pities them. ... "House of Sand and Fog" relates not a plot with its contrived ups and downs but a story. A plot is about things that happen. A story is about people who behave.
To admire a story you must be willing to listen to the people and observe them, and at the end of House of Sand and Fog, we have seen good people with good intentions who have their lives destroyed because they had the bad luck to come across a weak person with shabby desires.
- Review of House of Sand and Fog (26 December 2003)
- Sean Penn never tries to show Harvey Milk as a hero, and never needs to. He shows him as an ordinary man, kind, funny, flawed, shrewd, idealistic, yearning for a better world. He shows what such an ordinary man can achieve. Milk was the right person in the right place at the right time, and he rose to the occasion. So was Rosa Parks. Sometimes, at a precise moment in history, all it takes is for one person to stand up. Or sit down.
- Review of Milk (24 November 2008)
- American movies are in the midst of a transition period. Some directors place their trust in technology. Spielberg, who is a master of technology, trusts only story and character, and then uses everything else as a workman uses his tools. He makes Minority Report with the new technology; other directors seem to be trying to make their movies from it. This film is such a virtuoso high-wire act, daring so much, achieving it with such grace and skill. Minority Report reminds us why we go to the movies in the first place.
- Review of Minority Report (21 June 2002)
- What Charlize Theron achieves in Patty Jenkins' "Monster" isn't a performance but an embodiment. With courage, art and charity, she empathizes with Aileen Wuornos, a damaged woman who committed seven murders. She does not excuse the murders. She simply asks that we witness the woman's final desperate attempt to be a better person than her fate intended.
- The ability of so many people to live comfortably with the idea of capital punishment is perhaps a clue to how so many Europeans were able to live with the idea of the Holocaust: Once you accept the notion that the state has the right to kill someone and the right to define what is a capital crime, aren't you halfway there?
- Review of Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (4 February 2000)
- To see strong acting like this is exhilarating. In a time of flashy directors who slice and dice their films in a dizzy editing rhythm, it is important to remember that films can look and listen and attentively sympathize with their characters. Directors grow great by subtracting, not adding, and Eastwood does nothing for show, everything for effect.
- Review of Mystic River (8 October 2003)
- Once is the kind of film I've been pestered about ever since I started reviewing again. People couldn't quite describe it, but they said I had to see it. I had to. Well, I did. They were right.
Quotes about Ebert
- Roger Ebert is a national treasure. He is the most recognizable and well known movie critic. He has been my favorite writer for some time now. I do not always agree with his opinions, which is my right, but he always backs them up. He is not someone who will say that such and such about movie X is bad and leave it at that — he will give the reasons for his thought process.
- Through his boorish, knee-jerk leftism, Ebert has become merely another Hollywood elitist thumbing his nose at America. Two thumbs down.
- Nobody has been more important in telling Americans why we should love film than Roger Ebert.
- Here’s something you don’t hear said about many movie critics: people love Roger Ebert. ... There’s a good reason for this: Ebert doesn’t stand between moviegoers and the audience. Rather, his regular readers are serious movie-lovers who see him as their rep, the guy out there fighting to make movies less stupid, more entertaining, more intelligent, more everything. You don’t have to agree with him — and I certainly didn’t in this book, when he ragged on Team America and Jesus is Magic, two movies where I laughed myself sick — to know that he’s on your side. He sees the bad movies so you don’t have to, and he’s seen the same ones over and over. ... Mere bile, though, isn’t his game; he’s as interested in why movies fail as why they work. A lot of the time, it’s obvious: because it’s made by morons for morons. In these cases, Ebert drags us through the plot in as entertaining a fashion as possible. ... Forty years on, he’s still a moviegoer’s best friend.
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