Roger Ebert is one of America’s best-known film-critics and you will spot his name at the top of the list of reviews for just about any movie on the Internet Movie Database.
He became a part of American pop-culture with the program Siskel & Ebert where he and fellow reviewer, Gene Siskel, argued with each other about the merits of movies and judged them the good old Caesarian way; by giving them a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’. Siskel has since passed away. Ebert is still at it with Richard Roeper as his new sparring partner.
Ebert has a refreshing, open-minded attitude about reviewing and he keeps his sense of humour on hand. Though his many viewing hours may make him more qualified to judge the comparative merits of a film than the average viewer, he is the first to admit that the judgement of a critic is ultimately just another opinion. However, Ebert’s love for the medium is so infectious you might find yourself coming down with a bad case of cinemania.
On the site of the Chicago Sun-Times, he has a forum where readers can argue with him or ask questions breaking the usual one-way communication between a reviewer and his audience. A collection of past entries is out in bookform: Questions for the Movie Answer Man. It is full of titillating trivia on a wide variety of cinema topics, with plenty of off-the-wall questions. The back-and-forth on the forum also resulted in Ebert’s ‘Bigger’ Little Movie Glossary, a conveniently indexed collection of movie-clichés, including entries by Ebert’s readers. This book vastly improves any bad movie you might see, since you can entertain yourself by tallying up every cliché you spot. It is currently hard to get hold of, but ask our staff and they’ll do their best.
Ebert’s reviews are collected every year (latest addition: Roger Ebert’s Movie Yearbook 2007) and a good addition to any bookshelf. For the newcomer, however, I would recommend starting with one of these two collections: The Great Movies or I Hated, Hated, Hated this Movie. The former is a collection of one hundred essays originally published on the Sun-Times site, about – well, duh – Great Movies that no one should miss out on. The latter is a collection of reviews of bad, BAD movies. Why would you want to read a review of a bad movie you wouldn’t want to see anyway? Because Ebert’s enthusiastic, funny rants are entertaining in their own right and are often so intriguing that you end up feeling like you want to witness the awfulness for yourself!
Books by Roger Ebert:
Questions for the Movie Answer Man
Ebert’s ‘Bigger’ Little Movie Glossary
Roger Ebert’s Movie Yearbook 2007
The Great Movies
I Hated, Hated, Hated this Movie