Παρασκευή, 5 Απριλίου 2013

Roger Ebert Taught People How to Argue About Movies


In the
pantheon of movie critics, there are few who can claim as much
influence as Roger Ebert. You could reasonably argue that Pauline
Kael was more important, that her influence on the form was deeper
and more lasting, that she, unlike Ebert changed the way that
movies were made.


Yet there’s a crucial distinction between the two: Despite
Kael's love of glorious trash, she was, at heart, an elite
moviegoer writing for other elite moviegoers. Ebert, on the other
hand, was far more concerned with mass appeal, and his
straightforward prose was accessible and to the point in ways that
Kael never really attempted.


That's no small thing for a pop culture critic, whose ultimate
job is to educate the wider public about the form. And his
insistence on accessibility not only helped Ebert reach a bigger,
broader audience than Kael, it made him a more popular cinematic
guide for the general public. Kael may have changed movie making,
but Ebert changed movie watching.


And a big part of the way he did that was by making debate about
film accessible. Siskel & Ebert, the TV show he
co-hosted with rival Chicago movie critic Gene Siskel, was billed
as a movie review show, and that’s true enough. But as much as it
was a show about reviewing films, it was even more a show about
arguing about movies.


The cantankerous duo showed viewers what it meant to enjoy
movies in the company of another, offering a feisty, competitive
model of film-fan friendship. Their unscripted on-screen dialogues,
meanwhile, helped a generation of moviegoers understand that it was
not enough to merely have an opinion about a film; you also had to
defend it. Indeed, a round of opinionated post-film jousting could
be an essential part of the moviegoing experience.


That sensibility helped put movie watching in a social context.
The show recognized that movie viewing and criticism was not a
strictly solitary affair, but a community project; it operated on
the assumption that a critic’s views are shaped as much by the
people he argues with as the movies he watches.  That, in
turn, allowed the program to transform the lonely work of critical
assessment and argument into a popular and engaging spectator
sport, and inspired legions of film nuts and amateur film critics
to engage in their own friendly duels with each other.


That probably explains a lot about why Ebert took so well to new
media late in life: It wasn’t just that he had always written in
the conversational style that became the norm on the web. It was
also that he relished the sport of debate, the ruckus of
freewheeling conversation about the things he loved and hated in
the world, with movies at the top of the list.


At times Ebert was a hater; more often he was prone to
celebration (a little too much, in my opinion). But a subtext of
virtually all of his life and work was that if you loved movies,
you would argue about them — and also for them.


The same, I think, should go for those of us who also love movie
criticism. I disagreed with many of Ebert’s critical judgments, and
I wasn’t particularly drawn to his plainspoken style of reviewing,
which often seemed hasty and, at least when reviewing new releases,
could be overly focused on character and story basics at the
expense of cinematic craftsmanship.


Yet I’ve always appreciated Ebert for the simple fact that he
did more than anyone else to make film criticism—and film
arguments—available and accessible to the world at large. In the
end, I’m glad he was there to argue with, to offer and defend
opinions, and, most of all, to show so many readers and viewers
that the arguments were not only worth having; at their best those
arguments could be as much or more fun than the movies
themselves.

0 σχόλια:

Δημοσίευση σχολίου