It is not in my nature to get reflective when someone famous dies. Death is part of life and if you’re fortunate enough, you will leave a good legacy behind. That’s how it works. But my reaction to Roger Ebert’s passing has been completely different. When my friend texted me about his death on Thursday, I was stunned. Not by his actual death; I knew that was imminent. I stunned because I can’t imagine processing a movie without Ebert’s reviews acting as a guide and creating a discourse about cinema. No single person has influenced my interest in film more than Roger Ebert. With every step I have taken in my efforts to learn everything I possibly can about cinema, Roger Ebert has always there and it is strange to think that from this point forward, he no longer will be. Continue reading “Roger Ebert, Twitter, and Me”
Here is his speech:
To begin with, thank you. I am so grateful for this enormous honor. And I am no less grateful that it has been presented by the great director Michael Apted, whose “Up!” documentaries strike me as one of the most noble achievements in film.
The person responsible above all others for the gift of a motion picture is the director. That is why it means so much to be honored by you. In countless ways you have directed my education as a film critic. You have allowed me to hang around on your sets. You have invited me to your locations. I was on the beach with Fellini, in Mexico with Peckinpah, in a Western saloon with Henry Hathaway, in a psychiatrist’s office with Bergman, in Venice with Visconti, beneath Juliet’s balcony with Zeffirelli, at a poker game with Billy Wilder, in Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory with Mel Brooks, and in a Chicago whorehouse with Norman Jewison.
Thinking of tonight’s nominees, I discussed his first film, “Grand Theft Auto” with Ron Howard. I met Chris Nolan and Jonathan Nolan after the premiere of “Memento” at Sundance. Gun Van Sant was willing to discuss the thinking behind his challenging film “Elephant.” I went through David Fincher’s “Fight Club” a shot at a time for a week with students in Boulder, who patiently explained to me why I had completely misunderstood the film. I was able to show Danny Boyle’s “Millions” at my film festival at the University of Illinois.
Of course sometimes my reviews have not been favorable. Robert Altman once told me, “If you never wrote a negative review, what would your positive reviews mean?”
“That’s true,” I said.
“Unfortunately,” Altman said, “in my case, all of your negative reviews have been mistaken.”
In this age when worthless celebrity gossip is replacing serious film criticism, I may be peculiar when I find myself on a set, because I’m usually more interested in the directors than the stars. So many of you have explained things to me, and taught me. I remember Brian de Palma diagramming a shot strategy. Marty Scorsese telling me how when he was a kid, he was fascinated by one single shot in a Michael Powell film that may have led him to become a director.
Werner Herzog and I have been in conversation since the 1970s. He is joining us at our table tonight, along with our Chicago friends Virginia Madsen, Andy Davis and Harold Ramis. Also my stepchildren Sonia and Josibiah.
To all of these people and countless others in the film industry, I owe a debt. You have given me a worthy vocation. When I look at Michael’s great series between “7-Up” and “49-Up,” and follow those lives as they unfold through the years, they lead me to think of the movies as an Empathy Machine.
We are born into a box of space and time, and the movies come closer than any other art form in giving us the experience of walking in someone else’s shoes. They allow us an opportunity to experience what it would be like to live within another gender, race, religion, nationality, or period of time. They expand us, they improve us, and sometimes they ennoble us. They also thrill us and make us laugh and cry, and for that gift, and for this honor tonight, I am very grateful.
An Actor Whose Baby Blues Came in Shades of Gray – Manohla Dargis’ appraisal of Newman’s life and career
“Paul Newman always wore his fame lightly, his beauty too…He learned to use that flawless face, so we could see the complexities underneath. And later, when age had extracted its price, he learned to use time too, showing us how beauty could be beaten down and nearly used up.”
A Late Great Movie Star – In this multimedia feature, Manohla Dargis recounts Newman’s career
30 Unforgettable Roles – A photo gallery from Entertainment Weekly
Paul Newman’s Frustrating Quest at the Oscars – By Tom O’Neil, Gold Derby
Newman remembered by Hollywood’s Greats – By Scott Feinberg, The Feinberg Files
Paul Newman and Me – Coleneth Smiley Jr remembers being a camper at Newman’s The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, Boston Herald
One night, I met Mr. Newman. He came through to hang out and join in some corny camp sing-a-longs. But “Hi, My Name is Joe” and “Kumbayah” can’t really be considered corny if “Cool Hand Luke” is bellowing out a couple of verses.
The Reluctant Star – Ty Burr, Boston Globe
A Life in film, cars and charity – Paul Harris, The Guardian
In a career studded with remarkable achievements, Newman’s greatest work of art might simply have been his ability to lead a fulfilled life outside of the glamour of being an icon.
The increase of online film criticism and the current state of the US economy are changing the place of the film critic.
Now on the Endangered Species List: Movie Critics in Print
By David Carr
Published: April 1, 2008
The continual drumbeat of news that film critics are being laid off at daily and weekly newspapers across the country has kicked up some quotable reviews.
“A dire situation!” Scott Rudin, independent film producer.
“A terrible loss!” Tom Bernard, Sony Pictures Classics.
“Puts serious movies at risk!” Mark Urman, ThinkFilm.
Those men were not actually speaking in exclamation points — the blurb genre engenders a certain license — but they were upset by the departures of movie critics. Nathan Lee, one of The Village Voice’s two full-time critics, was laid off last week by Village Voice Media, a large chain of alternative weeklies that has been cutting down the number of critics it employs across the country.
The week before, two longtime critics at Newsday — Jan Stuart and Gene Seymour — took buyouts, along with their editor. And at Newsweek, David Ansen is among 111 staff members taking buyouts, according to a report in Radar.
They join critics at more than a dozen daily newspapers (including those in Denver, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale) and several alternative weeklies who have been laid off, reassigned or bought out in the past few years, deemed expendable at a time when revenues at print publications are declining, under pressure from Web alternatives and a growing recession in media spending.
Given that movie blogs are strewn about the Web like popcorn on a theater floor, there are those who say that movie criticism is not going away, it’s just appearing on a different platform. And no one would argue that fewer critics and the adjectives they hurl would imperil the opening of Iron Man in May. But for a certain kind of movie, critical accolades can mean the difference between relevance and obscurity, not to mention box office success or failure.
This makes me really sad and really, legitmately pissed off.
I know my blog isn’t solely responsible for the decline of “movie critics in print”. I mean, if you read this blog for my stunning film criticism, you might need to have your head examined. I haven’t written a review exclusively for this blog since um… October… maybe (I honestly don’t remember) and other than my roommate and my mother, very few people read this blog. But, it’s part of the problem.
David Poland, head of the Movie City News Web site (moviecitynews.com) puts it best: “Losing critics for serious film is like taking away the padding on the crutches of a very sick man with two broken legs and one working eye. It’s not going to keep it from limping along, but yeah, it hurts like hell.”