There are times when I’m discussing films online or writing a blog post that I hesitate to say something really apt and true about the movie. Not because it wouldn’t be a great thing to say, but because I know I didn’t think of it myself, at least not consciously. More often than not, it’s from the mind of Roger Ebert.
I’m a big fan of Ebert’s writing, due in equal parts to what he has to say and to the way he says it in. His long experience working as a film critic has given him a keen analytical mind and he’s always able to effectively argue for why he thinks the way he does about a movie. He’s not afraid to go against the grain (he was one of few critics to enjoy Speed 2: Cruise Control, and he has a noted aversion to Stanley Kubrick‘s well-regarded A Clockwork Orange) but doesn’t do it just to be a contrarian (compare with the infamous Armond White). Do I always agree with Ebert? Certainly not. Our views on film differ on numerous occasions. To name but one example, he enjoyed 2012, which I found to be a complete snoozefest. But I still like that review, because in it I sense a similar kind of child-like enthusiasm towards the film as what I have towards, say, Crank (which he sadly didn’t review. I’d love to hear what he’d make of that one). So while I don’t agree with him, I can see where he’s coming from.
After I see a movie, there is a certain ritual I go through. Rate it on this and that site, tweet something about it, rank it on Flickchart, etcetera. The last step in said process tends to be to see what Ebert had to say about it (being of the mindset that the less known about a movie beforehand the better, I rarely read reviews until after I’ve seen a film). For a while, I’ve been saving snippets of his reviews into a document. Quotes that I’ve enjoyed, either because they’re wonderfully worded, insightful or just plain funny. Here are some of them, along with one or two I’ve discovered through other quote collections online.
“Timecrimes” is like a temporal chess game with nudity, voyeurism and violence, which makes it more boring than most chess games but less boring than a lot of movies.
There is also a cute blacksmithess named Kate (Laura Fraser), who must be good, as she has obviously not been kicked in the head much.
~ A Knight’s Tale
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.
~ Freddy Got Fingered
And although we are treated to very nice shots of Neptune, the crew members never look at the planet in awe, or react to the wondrous sight; like the actors standing next to the open airplane door in “Air Force One,” they’re so intent on their dialogue they’re oblivious to their surroundings.
~ Event Horizon
No one is better at this kind of performance than Nicolas Cage. He’s a fearless actor. He doesn’t care if you think he goes over the top. If a film calls for it, he will crawl to the top hand over hand with bleeding fingernails.
~ Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
I am required to award stars to movies I review. This time, I refuse to do it. The star rating system is unsuited to this film. Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don’t shine.
~ The Human Centipede
The movie is an unsprung screwball comedy, slowed down to real-life speed.
~ Wonder Boys
Say what you will about Charlton Heston and Victor Mature, but one good way to carry off a sword-and-sandal epic is to be filmed by a camera down around your knees, while you intone quasi-formal prose in a heroic baritone. [Brad] Pitt is modern, nuanced, introspective; he brings complexity to a role where it is not required. By treating Achilles and the other characters as if they were human, instead of the larger-than-life creations of Greek myth, director Wolfgang Petersen miscalculates. What happens in Greek myth cannot happen between psychologically plausible characters.
[Mikael and Erika] make their danger feel so real to us that we realize the heroes of many action movies don’t really believe they’re in any danger at all.
~ The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest
I cannot recommend the movie, but … why the hell can’t I? Just because it’s godawful? What kind of reason is that for staying away from a movie? Godawful and boring, that would be a reason.
~ Basic Instinct 2
[Bob and Charlotte] share something as personal as their feelings rather than something as generic as their genitals.
~ Lost in Translation
For much of the first hour of “Seven Pounds,” Ben Thomas acts according to a plan that seems perfectly clear, but only to himself. The reason it goes unexplained is that he has no need to explain it to himself, and no way to explain it to anyone else.
~ Seven Pounds
“Mother” will have you discussing the plot, not entirely to your satisfaction. I would argue: The stories in movies are complete fictions and can be resolved in any way the director chooses. If he actually cheats or lies, we have a case against him. If not, no matter what his strange conclusions, we can be grateful that we remained involved and even fascinated. Why do we buy a ticket? To confirm that a movie ends just the way we expect it to?
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.
[David] Mamet’s dialogue has a kind of logic, a cadence, that allows people to arrive in triumph at the ends of sentences we could not possibly have imagined.
~ Glengarry Glen Ross
Of course it is confused. Of course it wavers between middle-class values and street values. Of course it is not sure whether it believes in liberal pieties or militancy. Of course some of the characters are sympathetic and others are hateful. And of course some of the likable characters do bad things. Isn’t that the way it is in America today?
~ Do the Right Thing
Vulgarity is when we don’t laugh. When we laugh, it’s merely human nature.
~ American Wedding
Instead of asking us to identify with this couple, as an American film would, Wong asks us to empathize with them; that is a higher and more complex assignment, with greater rewards.
~ In the Mood For Love
It is as hard to be excellent in a horror film as in Shakespeare. Harder, maybe, because the audience isn’t expecting it.
It is a “thriller” without thrills, constructed in a meaningless jumble of flashbacks and flash-forwards and subtitles and mottos and messages and scenes that are deconstructed, reconstructed and self-destructed. I wanted to signal the projectionist to put a gun to it.
If film noir was not a genre, but a hard man on mean streets with a lost lovely in his heart and a gat in his gut, his nightmares would look like “Sin City.”
~ Sin City
When you’re angry with the world and yourself to the same degree, you’re running in place. It takes a great deal of energy. It can be exhausting. You lash out at people. You’re hard on yourself. It all takes place in your head. After a time people give up on you. They think you don’t give a damn and don’t care about yourself. If they only knew.