' ' Cinema Romantico: 13 Personal Favorite Roger Ebert Review Quotes

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

13 Personal Favorite Roger Ebert Review Quotes

Believe me, I understand the danger of reducing any film review to a mere quote (call it, The Peter Travers School Of Film Criticism). To truly understand the breadth of the way the esteemed and late Roger Ebert could write about a film, one must read the entire review (for an example I direct you to his original "Apocalypse Now" piece which remains utterly astonishing). But...Ebert, like any writer worth his word processor, could slash the page and draw blood with but a few words.

Each of these quotes has stayed with me from the very moment I first read it. I remembered them all verbatim - well, not really. Well, a few of them I remembered verbatim and the impression of the other few I remembered verbatim. A few of these quotes I often reference in my own film reviews and a few of these I think of when I sit down to compose a film review and a few of these I think of when I adore a film and a few of these I think of when I simply sit down to watch a film.

An exhilarating, fulfilling sentence - or set of sentences - is not easy to come by and it must be respected. That is why today we pay homage to a master.

13 Personal Favorite Roger Ebert Review Quotes

- "As a general principle, I believe films are the wrong medium for fact. Fact belongs in print. Films are about emotions." ... from "JFK"

- "If you also want it to all be plausible in hindsight, you're probably disappointed when a magician doesn't saw a real person in half and leave the severed corpse on the stage." ... from the Movie Answer Man column Oct. 2005

- "But how, and why, would her husband, and her shrink, and her neighbor, and her other neighbor, and even the New York Times, completely forget about Sam and the crash and all those little kids? The most likely hypothesis is that Telly is crazy and everybody else is right. But who would make a movie about a mother discovering her beloved child was imaginary? That would be too sad, too tragic, and, for that matter, too thought-provoking and artistically challenging, and might even make a good movie." ... from "The Forgotten"

- "Movies are really about the human body more than anything else. I was recently faulted for lingering overmuch on Ingrid Bergman's lips in 'Casablanca.' Anyone, man or woman, who doesn't want to linger on Ingrid Bergman's lips is telling us something about themselves we'd rather not know." ... from "Broken Embraces"

- "The bedrock of the plot is the dogged determination of the Bruce Willis character. Jack may be middle-aged, he may be tired, he may be balding, he may be a drunk, but if he's played by Bruce Willis you don't want to bet against him. He gets that look in his eye that says: It's going to be a pain in the ass for me to do this, but I couldn't live with myself if I didn't. I always I believe that more easily than the look that merely says: I will prevail because this is an action picture and I play the hero." ... from "16 Blocks"

- "'Armageddon' reportedly used the services of nine writers. Why did it need any? The dialogue is either shouted one-liners or romantic drivel. 'It's gonna blow!' is used so many times, I wonder if every single writer used it once, and then sat back from his word processor with a contented smile on his face, another day's work done." ... from "Armageddon"

-"Empathy has been in short supply in our nation recently. Our leaders are quick to congratulate us on our own feelings, slow to ask us to wonder how others feel. But maybe times are changing. Every Lee film is an exercise in empathy. He is not interested in congratulating the black people in his audience, or condemning the white ones. He puts human beings on the screen, and asks his audience to walk a little while in their shoes." ... from "Malcolm X"

- "We all need to talk about metaphysics, but those who know us well want details and specifics; strangers allow us to operate more vaguely on a cosmic scale. When the talk occurs between two people who could plausibly have sex together, it gathers a special charge: you can only say 'I feel like I've known you for years' to someone you have not known for years. Funny, how your spouse doesn't understand the bittersweet transience of life as well as a stranger encountered in a hotel bar. Especially if drinking is involved." ... from "Lost In Translation"

"Coppola has been criticized in some circles for her use of a contemporary pop overlay -- hit songs, incongruous dialogue, jarring intrusions of the Now upon the Then. But no one ever lives as Then; it is always Now. Many characters in historical films seem somehow aware that they are living in the past. Marie seems to think she is a teenager living in the present, which of course she is -- and the contemporary pop references invite the audience to share her present with ours." ... from "Marie Antoinette"

- "When she’s stalking a terrorist with a hockey stick, she seems like a real woman stalking a real terrorist with a real hockey stick. It’s not as easy as it sounds." ... from "Red Eye"

- "Like all truly great movies, 'Drugstore Cowboy' is a joyous piece of work. I believe the subject of a film does not determine whether it makes us feel happy or sad. I am inutterably depressed after seeing stupid comedies that insult my intelligence, but I felt exhilarated after seeing 'Drugstore Cowboy,' because every person connected with this project is working at top form. It's a high-wire act of daring, in which this unlikely subject matter becomes the occasion for a film about sad people we come to care very deeply about." ... from "Drugstore Cowboy"

- "That such a film gets made is a miracle: One can see how this material could have been softened and compromised, and that would have been wrong. It is a pure, grand gesture. That he is an alcoholic and she works the streets are simply the turnings they have taken. Beneath their occupations are their souls. And because Ben essentially has given up on his, the film becomes Sera's story, about how even in the face of certain defeat we can, at least, insist on loving, and trying." ... from "Leaving Las Vegas"

- "Movies are so often made of effects and sensation these days. This one is made of three people and how their actions grow out of who they are and why. Nothing else. But isn't that everything?" ... from "Millon Dollar Baby"


Unknown said...

Thank you for these unpredictable and profoundly satisfying selections. I've loved Ebert's writing since I was a child, and reading (often through tears) so much of his very best and wisest work the past few days has given me a momentary hyper-attunement to meaning and beauty -- a state that seemed to come naturally to him, coexisting easily with bawdy good humor and down to earth generosity.

The quote I've recently been thinking of regarding Ebert comes from film scholar Stanley Cavell: "Apart from the wish for selfhood (hence the always simultaneous granting of otherness as well), I do not understand the value of art." This particular power of art often seemed amplified by Ebert's writing on film -- his own, unapologetic selfhood, his expansive, generous respect for otherness. I will be forever grateful for his writing, and for him.

Alex Withrow said...

Great compilation here. Ebert often said it best, didn't he?

I love that JFK quote. So true.

Armageddon - Yes.

Malcolm X – That’s poetry right there.

Leaving Las Vegas: I always loved his love for his film.

Derek Armstrong said...

I know you want me to say that the Million Dollar Baby quote is my favorite of these, and it's really good. But the Marie Antoinette quote is my favorite.

Your spirit is a good match for Ebert's. He cared enough to mine his deepest experiences to write his reviews, and you cared enough to mine his work to find such a choice representation of who he was as both a writer and a human being. Kudos to you.

Also, kudos to Melissa for such a good comment.