Friday, April 5, 2013

Roger Ebert

Film critics like to think of themselves as arbiters of taste.  Roger Ebert, who died yesterday at the age of 70, was one of the few who could legitimately make that claim.  As an admirer of good writing, I wish I could say that it was because of his newspaper columns, but that would be a lie.  It was the television show that he hosted, first with the late Gene Siskel, then others, that made him America's most respected critic.  Fortunately, unlike many other film critics on the airwaves, Ebert really knew film; what made a good movie, and what made a bad one.  After I heard about his death, I went on line, and found the one thing that's practically a job requirement for all critics, the top 10 list.

His top ten, in alphabetical order, 1. Casablanca, 2. Citizen Kane, 3. Floating Weeds, 4. Gates of Heaven, 5. La Dolce Vita, 6. Notorious, 7. Raging Bull, 8. The Third Man, 9. 28 Up, 10.  2001: A Space Odyssey.

Any  top ten list is, by it's very nature, highly idiosyncratic.  Looking over Ebert's choices, I'd question Gates of Heaven, a documentary about pet cemeteries, and Raging Bull.  I've always felt Martin Scorsese to be over rated.   (That doesn't mean I think Raging Bull is a bad movie, it just wouldn't be on my list.)  And just to come clean, I can't comment on 28 Up, the only film on the list I haven't seen.  I was also happy to Casablanca on his list, a movie that gets too little respect, I suspect, because it's so loved, by so many people.  Still, while admitting the impossibility of coming up with a top ten that isn't open to challenge, here's mine, in no particular order.

1. The Searchers, 2. Sunrise, a Story of Two Humans, 3. Pandora's Box, 4. Notorious, 5. A Corner In Wheat, 6. The Apu Trilogy (Actually three films, Pather Panchali, Aparajito, and The World of Apu) 7. The Battle of Algiers, 8. Grand Illusion, 9. Tittiticutt Follies 10. Barry Lyndon.  And of course, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that two hours from now, that list would be completely different.

A few years ago, a couple of film fanatic friends of mine and I agreed to start a blog of films we loved.  Nothing fancy, just a list of films, main credits and plot synopsis.  We all gave up on it after awhile.  I keep thinking I should go back and update things, but, so far, I haven't done so.  It can be found at

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