In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

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La La Land

This is a beautiful film about love and dreams, and how the two impact each other.

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Jackie

There are two movies in "Jackie." One of these movies is just OK. The other is exceptional. The first one keeps undermining the second.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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My Favorite Roger: Monica Castillo

Roger's review of "Star Wars."

Why did I pick this review?

I found Roger Ebert’s review of “Star Wars” fairly early on when I was rediscovering his writing. Sure, I’d seen him here or there on TV, but to my memory, his writing never quite made it to Tampa, Florida (the critic I most remember from my childhood was the Tampa Tribune’s Bob Ross). So it was actually in college when I discovered Ebert’s blog and I finally sat down to read his reviews—delightfully witty, yet straightforward and accessible. I kept searching through his site for my favorite movies, one of which was the original “Star Wars.”

This review is not a dismissal of a sci-fi film from a then little-known director and cast. “Star Wars” had men with mysterious powers, aliens in fur costumes, and robots with British accents. How easy would it have been for this film to have veered into camp or schlock? Fallen into obscurity rather than join the cultural lexicon? Ebert recognized the sophistication of getting all the many pieces to work (well, he didn’t like how long the final Death Star sequence was, but that seems to be his only major quibble). He applauds the film’s special effects, marvels at the now-iconic Cantina scene, and pinpoints the biggest reason for the success of “Star Wars”: the story. “The movie relies on the strength of pure narrative, in the most basic storytelling form known to man, the Journey,” he writes. It’s how we fall in love with the characters, become invested in the mission, and fall under the spell of a good movie.  

What I love most of all about this piece is how honest he is about his experience watching the film. “’Star Wars’ had placed me in the presence of really magical movie invention…” We hope for that ecstatic feeling we discovered when we found our love of movies. As critics, it may be hard to keep the faith, week after week of new releases. Then you find a movie like “Star Wars,” and it reinvigorates you. That hopeful quest to find those movies keeps you excited to watch. 

Earlier in his piece, Ebert equates that feeling to an “out-of-body experience.” He goes on to explain, “In a curious sense, the events in the movie seem real, and I seem to be a part of them.” Isn’t that what going to the movies was all about when you were a kid?


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