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Roger Ebert

I’ve been away for a while, with personal stuff, so this is quite late. Which is probably for the best, as I don’t think I can really say too much about Ebert that hasn’t already been said by so many more eloquent individuals all around the internet.

Roger Ebert meant a lot to me. It’s no real exaggeration to suggest that he was the first real American film critic that I noticed. Obviously, I grew up with British and Irish film critics on television and radio. I was fond of (and am still fond of) Barry Norman, Jonathan Ross, Mark Kermode and Dave Fanning among others. However, Ebert was the first American film critic who really resonated with me.

rogerebert2

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Tall Tales from a Lincoln Test Screening: Critiquing the Critics…

Apparently there was a test screening of Lincoln in New Jersey. I know this because the film media has gone absolutely wild over it. What’s astonishing about this coverage is the fact that it’s less about how rare it is to test Spielberg movies (Hook was the last one tested, and we know how that turned out), but more about the perceived responses to audience comments coming from that screening. Critics and pundits were quick to dismiss audience members speaking out as “anonymous jackasses” or to question their critical faculties…

Which all seems a bit much, doesn’t it?

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More Than You Embargoed For: Thoughts on Review Embargoes…

I know I’m a bit late on this one, but I’ve been thinking a bit about movie review embargoes of late. For those unaware, embargoes are those restrictions on when a reviewer can publish a review. They’re normally enforced by studios, limiting the publication of reviews to within a one week window of the movie’s release. I’ve had the fortune over the past few months to be invited to screenings of The Avengers and Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists long before the window, and have held my review until it’s okay to publish. Still, I can’t help but feel a little uneasy at the prospect.

Nothing to get too Fury-ous about…

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That’s Just, Like, Your Opinion, Man: Movie Criticism and Subjectivity…

What do you use movie critics for? What’s their function or role? Is there a distinction between a film reviewer and a film critic? What do their opinions or verdicts mean? It’s getting to the point where the last thing the internet needs is another pretentious self-indulgent meditation on the nature of writing about film, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot of late. The blockbuster season seems to bring with it the classic “audience against critic” debate, not that it’s ever truly gone. Even at the heights of Oscar season, the argument is bristling away in the background, as people lament the relatively low box office if critic-pleasing films like The Artist.

"Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man..."

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Same Movie, Different Audience & The Variables of the Movie-Going Experience…

I saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes again. I was with a relative who hadn’t seen it, and I thought I’d tag along. Part of it was to determine whether the fact that I so thoroughly enjoyed the film had been a fluke, perhaps due to relatively low levels of anticipation going in, but also because it was a good movie, and one I thought might be worth watching again. Truth be told, I enjoyed the film as much the second time, perhaps even more. However, something occurred to me while I was watching it – the audience I was with reacted quite differently to one or two key moments, which (to be honest) also impacted how I looked at those scenes. I don’t think it radically altered my opinion of the film, but I found it interesting to note how watching the film with a different group of people could lead to a slightly distinct viewing experience.

Paws for thought?

Note: This article, by its nature, will include spoilers for two key moments in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I suspect, if you’ve seen the film, you know which ones I am talking about. If you haven’t seen the film, I recommend you do before reading the article.

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A Gilda Caged: Thoughts on the Movies We Label “Classic”…

I had the pleasure, a while back, of attending a screening of Gilda being hosted by the Irish Film Institute. The black-and-white forties noir-tinted thriller is somewhat warmly regarded among film historians, and one of those movies you label as a “classic” without any real hesitation. However, as I emerged from the cinema, I found myself wondering how such a film would be received were it released today. I honestly wonder what we would make of these “classics” if they didn’t have the word “classic” to hide behind.

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Harry Pottering On: Research & Reviews…

This evening, I will be lucky enough to attend a screening of Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part II, and have a chance to get my review on-line. However, I must concede that I am not a Harry Potter fanatic. I haven’t read the books. I’ve seen the films, enjoyed the majority for what they are, only found one to be an exercise in tedium, and have a genuine respect for what they’ve managed to accomplish in bringing to life a fairly iconic series of books in a manner that can please both the hardcore fans and the casual movie-goer. However, as I brace myself to attend the screening tonight, I wonder what a film critic owes their subject matter in terms of research. Do I owe the people who made the film, and – possibly – the fans that are going to see it, enough to dig into as much of the back ground as possible before the cinema lights go down?

Witch approach should I adopt?

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Anatomy of a Backlash: Intercepting Inception Criticisms…

It’s always interesting to watch the reaction to a highly anticipated blockbuster. Sure, most of the time it hits like a drop in the ocean: there’s a moment of anticipation as it travels through the air and a slight reverberation as it joins the rather sizeable pool of existing movies, quickly forgotten or accepted. However, sometimes – if the movie is big enough – you get a slightly more complex reaction. That second before it hits the water becomes longer, the audience holds its breath even tighter and then, when it hits… there are reactions. The first wave, usually one of acceptance – the geekery, the exotic embrace, the types of reviews that push a Rotten Tomatoes score up to 100% before it even gets a wide release. Then there’s the second wave, as a few high-profile commentators dare to speak out against the film – usually reviewers from prestigious publications, usually as release day dawns. There’s a third movement, perhaps in direct response to the above – the rapid fanboy passion, one determined to lock down any criticism, sometimes aggressive, just sometimes caught up in the moment. And, if the film is really big, there’s a fourth wave, the public backlash against the film itself. It’s interesting to watch a movie cycle through these four basic events, like Inception certainly has of late. There are ripples across the internet, and waves of discussion and engagement, which is always great to see. However, it’s somewhat less exciting to witness how bitter criticisms and arguments can become.

It's all a bit topsy-turvy...

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The Film Critic is Dead… Again…

We’re coming into summer blockbuster season. Hell, one might suggest that Kick-Ass has heralded the start of it. If it hasn’t, Clash of the Titans has. That’s if you don’t believe Alice in Wonderland kicked it all into high gear. Anyway, you know what that means – spectacle, lots of it. Some of it incredible, some of it… not so much. The masses flock to the cinema to while away the long summer evenings and movie theatres are filled with the laughter of children (which can be quite irritating to the patrons). It also means that, like the spring lambs, the beautiful cycle of the life and death of film criticism must begin anew. Critics will begin to lament their increasing irrelevance as poor movies make huge sums of money, journalists will light a funeral pyre and some filmmakers like Kevin Smith will gladly join the mob chanting ‘critics are dead’. This fine annual tradition will ebb and flow like the box office fortunes of many an undeserving behemoth. And at the end of it, the critics will still be here.

Why so grim?

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Are Bloggers Critics?

Is any profession less secure than film criticism? Really. I mean, I was depressed about the box office success of Transformers 2 as well and was disappointed no one heeded you, but I didn’t begin to doubt my very profession. Similarly I was upset that G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was marketed around film critics, but I didn’t become openly petty about you guys not seeing the film for free. This time, it’s the fact that critics are being grouped with bloggers that has prompted a rather severe reaction from some quarters. Is there any point to be made?

The film critic on new media...

The film critic on new media...

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