Inside Llewyn Davis
"Inside Llewyn Davis" is the most satisfyingly diabolical cinematic structure that the Coens have ever contrived, and that's just one reason that I suspect it…
by Roger Ebert
By Roger Ebert
That's the hard-boiled Dragline, speaking of Cool Hand Luke.
After she read my obituary of Paul Newman, my wife Chaz asked me, "Why didn't you write more about his acting?" She was right. Why didn't I? I've been asking myself that. Maybe I was trying to tell myself something. I think it was this: I never really thought of him as an actor. I regarded him more as an embodiment, an evocation, of something. And I think that something was himself. He seemed above all a deeply good man, who freed himself to live life fully and joyfully, and used his success as a way to follow his own path, and to help others.
I do not like you, John McCain. My feeling has nothing to do with issues. It has to do with common courtesy. During the debate, you refused to look Barack Obama in the eye. Indeed, you refused to look at him at all. Even when the two of you shook hands at the start, you used your eyes only to locate his hand, and then gazed past him as you shook it.
by Roger Ebert
Photographs, left to right: Bullwinkle J. Moose, Jonathan Swift.
Some days ago I posted an article headlined, "Creationism: Your questions answered." It was a Q&A that accurately reflected Creationist beliefs. It inspired a firestorm on the web, with hundreds, even thousands of comments on blogs devoted to evolution and science. More than 600 comments on the delightful FARK.com alone. Many of the comments I've seen believe I have converted to Creationism. Others conclude I have lost my mind because of age and illness. There is a widespread conviction that the site was hacked. Lane Brown's blog for New York magazine flatly states I gave "two thumbs down to evolution." On every one of the blogs, there are a few perceptive comments gently suggesting the article might have been satirical. So far I have not seen a single message, negative or positive, from anyone identifying as a Creationist.
By Roger Ebert
A critic at a performance is like a eunuch at a harem. He sees it done nightly, but is unable to perform it himself. --Brendan Behan
A lot of people don't know what "critic" means. They think it means, "a person who criticizes." They don't like people who do that. It seems an impotent profession. Critics are nasty, jealous, jaded and bitter. They think it's all about them. They're know-it-alls. They want to appear superior to everyone else. They're impossible to please. They don't understand the tastes of ordinary people. They love to tear down other people's hard work. Those who can do it, do it. Those who can't do it, criticize. What gives them the right to have an opinion? We'd be better off without them.
Criticism is a destructive activity. If I like something and the critics didn't, they can't see what's right there before their eyes because they're in love with some theory. They don't have feelings; they have systems. They think they know better than creators. They praise what they would have done, instead of what an artist has done. They use foreign words to show off. They're terrified of being exposed as the empty poseurs they are. They are leeches on the skin of art.
That's what some people tell me. Maybe I do. I look myself up in Metacritic, which compiles statistics comparing critics, and I find: "On average, this critic grades 8.9 points higher than other critics (0-100 point scale)." Wow. What a pushover. Part of my problem may be caused by conversion of the detested star rating system. I consider 2.5 stars to be thumbs down; they consider 62.5 to be favorable. But let's not mince words: On average, I do grade higher than other critics.
Now why do I do that? And why, as some readers have observed, did I seem to grade lower in my first 10 or 15 years on the job? I know the answer to that one. When I started, I considered 2.5 stars to be a perfectly acceptable rating for a film I rather liked in certain aspects. Then I started doing the TV show, and ran into another wacky rating system, the binary thumbs. Up or down, which is it?
Gene Siskel boiled it down: "What's the first thing people ask you? Should I see this movie? They don't want a speech on the director's career. Thumbs up--yes. Thumbs down--no." That made sense, but in the paper it had the effect of nudging a lot of films from 2.5 to three stars. There is never any doubt about giving four stars, or one star. The problem comes with the movies in the middle. Siskel once tried to get away with giving thumbs up to a 2.5 star movie, but I called him on it.
I watched Sarah Palin's interview with Charles Gibson, and felt uneasiness stirring in my stomach. The feeling did not involve politics. Somehow it was personal. Gradually, memories churned to the surface.