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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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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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Non-Review Review: Dark City (Director’s Cut)

We’re currently blogging as part of the “For the Love of Film Noir” blogathon (hosted by Ferdy on Films and The Self-Styled Siren) to raise money to help restore the 1950’s film noir The Sound of Fury (aka Try and Get Me). It’s a good cause which’ll help preserve our rich cinematic heritage for the ages, and you can donate by clicking here. Over the course of the event, running from 14th through 21st February, I’m taking a look at the more modern films that have been inspired or shaped by noir. Today’s theme is “cyber noir” – the unlikely combination of sci-fi and film noir to make an oh-so-tasty film.

A man jolts awake in a bathtub in a strange motel, and seems somewhat surprised by his surroundings. As seems to be mandatory in all good sleazy establishments, the light bulb on the ceiling swings back and forth – teasing illumination around the otherwise dark tiled room, but never showing everything. Confused, the resident stumbles to his feet, and searches frantically for what must be his clothes. However, there’s an unpleasant surprising waiting for him inside the anonymous cheap room: a dead body of a beautiful woman, carved and cut up in a mysterious spiral pattern. Our protagonist recoils, horrified by the discovery, and leaves the seedy dive as soon as possible. He assures himself, repeatedly, that it isn’t what it looked like. He isn’t a killer, he’s a good man.

However, it would be much easier to make that argument if he could remember anything before waking up in the water. Even his own name.

One to watch...

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We Made a F%$&ing Movie! MacGruber and Unsympathetic Comedic Leads…

The film is a slapstick comedy with a hero who is a nice guy. I thought that wasn’t allowed anymore. He’s a single dad, bringing up his daughter with the help of his mom. He takes his job seriously. He may be chubby, but he’s brave and optimistic.

Roger Ebert on Paul Blart: Mall Cop

I watched MacGruber over the weekend. It was okay – it wasn’t fantastic, and it wasn’t one of the best examples of anything, but if you wanted a shedload of juvenile humour, well… it was right up your street. However, watching the film did get me thinking about just how much of a jerk the title character was. How much of a horrible person can a comedy protagonist be? When did it become the norm for these sorts of characters to be presented with completely irredeemable traits?

Sometimes it's an up-hill struggle to empathise with a protagonist...

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Non-Review Review: The Night of Living Dead (1968)

Welcome to the m0vie blog’s zombie week! It’s a week of zombie-related movie discussions and reviews as we come up to Halloween, to celebrate the launch of Frank Darbont’s The Walking Dead on AMC on Halloween night. So be sure to check back all week, as we’ll be running posts on the living dead.

They’re coming to get you, Barbara!

– Barbara’s brother tempts fate

The kids in the audience were stunned. There was almost complete silence. The movie had stopped being delightfully scary about halfway through, and had become unexpectedly terrifying. There was a little girl across the aisle from me, maybe nine years old, who was sitting very still in her seat and crying… It’s hard to remember what sort of effect this movie might have had on you when you were six or seven. But try to remember. At that age, kids take the events on the screen seriously, and they identify fiercely with the hero. When the hero is killed, that’s not an unhappy ending but a tragic one: Nobody got out alive. It’s just over, that’s all.

– Roger Ebert discusses the impact of the film on his first viewing

It’s interesting to look back on a film and see that it created a whole new genre from scratch. The Night of the Living Dead is a humble, small and effective little black-and-white effort that doesn’t even seem aware of the impact that it would have. As shrewdly as it creates the monster which defined the latter half of the twentieth century (and the first few years of the twenty-first), there’s nothing pretentious about George A. Romero’s production. In fact, it consciously harks back to all manner of influential and paranoid fifties horrors (with a dash of science fiction). Still, there’s a reason the film has endured for so long. Although it never pretends to be anything more than a gloriously trashy B-movie, The Night of the Living Dead is committed to being the best gloriously trashy B-movie it can be. The only thing more fascinating than its pop culture impact is how well (mostly) it still hold up today.

Barbara's in grave danger...

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When Average Just Isn’t Good Enough: Do Better Directors Have Further to Fall?

I watched Cop Out at the weekend, and I have to admit it was just about okay. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t consistently funny. It had moments of wit, but they were separated by pointless and boring scenes. It had a talented cast, but didn’t do anything with them. I wouldn’t describe it as a bad film, but I wouldn’t advise you to rent it (or otherwise seek it out). However, there was a stronger and more bitter taste in the air. There was something especially disappointing about the film, because of its director. Cop Out was a Kevin Smith film, and it actually felt a bit worse than it arguably should have because I knew the director was capable of so much more. Am I the only one who tends to be more disappointed by an average film from a talented filmmaker than perhaps even a bad film from an untalented director?

Feels like a bit of a cop out...

 

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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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