Saturday, 6 April 2013

R.I.P. Roger Ebert

Yesterday, April 4th 2013, Roger Ebert died at the age of 70. Though well known to me and other film freaks, I expect that most people have never heard of him, and those who do know his name will react to his death with a shrug. In my eyes he was the most important film critic ever. His reviews were worth reading. He could be both informative and entertaining at the same time. He was everything that I aspire to be, but can never hope to achieve.

He has been criticised by some for his film ratings being inconsistent and changing over the years. So what? That's normal. Whether or not I enjoy a film depends largely on my mood when I watch it. He has also been faulted for his ratings being subjective. As far as I'm concerned, film reviews must be subjective. A film isn't a masterpiece because the director follows a checklist that he learnt in film school, it's a masterpiece if it can touch the hearts, minds or souls of the viewers. And not all viewers are susceptible in the same way.

Roger Ebert was also responsible for co-writing the screenplays of various films with Russ Meyer, including "Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens", one of my favorite films.

Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert

For those who are interested, Ebert made a list of the "Best film of the year"  from 1967 till 2012. Even though I don't agree with all of his selections, this is a good list of must-watch films, many of which are already in my DVD collection.

  • 1967: Bonnie and Clyde
  • 1968: The Battle of Algiers
  • 1969: Z
  • 1970: Five Easy Pieces
  • 1971: The Last Picture Show
  • 1972: The Godfather
  • 1973: Cries and Whispers
  • 1974: Scenes from a Marriage
  • 1975: Nashville
  • 1976: Small Change
  • 1977: 3 Women
  • 1978: An Unmarried Woman
  • 1979: Apocalypse Now
  • 1980: The Black Stallion
  • 1981: My Dinner with Andre
  • 1982: Sophie's Choice
  • 1983: The Right Stuff
  • 1984: Amadeus
  • 1985: The Color Purple
  • 1986: Platoon
  • 1987: House of Games
  • 1988: Mississippi Burning
  • 1989: Do the Right Thing
  • 1990: Goodfellas
  • 1991: JFK
  • 1992: Malcolm X
  • 1993: Schindler's List
  • 1994: Hoop Dreams
  • 1995: Leaving Las Vegas
  • 1996: Fargo
  • 1997: Eve's Bayou
  • 1998: Dark City
  • 1999: Being John Malkovich
  • 2000: Almost Famous
  • 2001: Monster's Ball
  • 2002: Minority Report
  • 2003: Monster
  • 2004: Million Dollar Baby
  • 2005: Crash
  • 2006: Pan's Labyrinth
  • 2007: Juno
  • 2008: Synecdoche, New York
  • 2009: The Hurt Locker
  • 2010: The Social Network
  • 2011: A Separation
  • 2012: Argo

Let me finish by quoting something from today's Daily Telegraph:

A good critic is more than someone who happens to have an opinion. He’s more than someone who happens to have an expert knowledge of his field. He’s a performer. A good piece of criticism isn’t a buyers’ guide. It isn’t facts and specifications and pros and cons, on the one hand, on the other hand, three out of five. It isn’t best ever, worst ever, all-time top 10. Instead it is, in itself, a form of entertainment. The critic’s opinion isn’t necessarily better than anyone else’s. But his writing should be.

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