October 23, 2008

Roger Ebert apologizes for reviewing the first 8 minutes of a movie.

Bleh! Apologies! Defend yourself, man. Walking out is an important form of judgment.

64 comments:

The Drill SGT said...

bad link?

Revenant said...

The link broken, at least for me.

Ann Althouse said...

Try again. It malfunctioned once for me too, but it is the right code.

Revenant said...

I used to read Ebert's reviews just because I liked his writing style, but I have to say that I doubt this is the first movie he's done this to. On several occasions I read one of his reviews wherein he offered some comment on the plot or story that made no sense in light of the film itself. Either he's not that bright ("he IS an Obama supporter", Rev added snarkily) or he skips (or at least avoids paying attention to) large sections of some of the movies he watches.

MadisonMan said...

Worked for me. First time. Safari on a mac.

When I read a review, I do assume the entire movie has been seen. So that's important information, not to be left out.

Original George said...

When I was a college student, I worked for a local radio station reviewing movies.

It was fun for the first week. I got paid with free tickets.

After that, I had to see every scrap of celluloid dreck released.

Soon I started praising obscure movies about medieval Belgian peasants just because they differed from my shoot 'em up diet.

Horrible job, reviewing movies, especially Italian ones that star John Huston and Shelley Winters.

mccullough said...

No doubt many book reviewers do the same thing.

It's a job after all, so we should expect them to cut corners and half-ass it like the rest of us.

Bissage said...

I don’t know what it’s called in the movie reviewing business.

But in the home building business it’s called “cutting corners.”

When we bought our new home we found that many corners had been cut.

Some of the problems got fixed.

I looked every one of those tradesmen in the eye.

No one apologized.

Not even one.

Bissage said...

BTW, if you look at that photo of Roger Ebert . . .

And you imagine him with dark-rimmed glasses . . .

You’ll know exactly how my Aunt Lillian looked the last time I saw her before she had her stroke and died.

Just saying.

Lem said...

Will the MSM apologize for not vetting Obama?

Kevin Walsh said...

>>>You’ll know exactly how my Aunt Lillian looked the last time I saw her before she had her stroke and died.<<

Ebert's had a lot of operations for cancer in his head and neck, enough that he can't talk any more, so just being able to review movies, and walk out on some, is terrific for him. Go Roger...

www.forgotten-ny.com

Bissage said...

Kevin, I'm sorry to know that.

I hope he fares better than my Aunt Lillian.

rcocean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Oligonicella said...

I quit caring about his reviews when he complained about the slow pace of "Little Buddha" and Siskel looked at him like he was stupid and said "It's about Buddhism!"

Me? I like Filthy Critic's reviews. That man can turn a phrase and a stomach at the same time ("More cuts than a Goth girl's forearms.")

rcocean said...

I only read the first eight sentences of any Ebert review - so I understand.

Lem said...

Rotten Tomatoes does the job for me.

Ann Althouse said...

"More cuts than a Goth girl's forearms."

I hate that kind of writing.

Anyway, Ebert says in the review that it's based on 8 minutes, so it's not deceptive. The only issue is whether you think he has an obligation to endure the whole film before opining. I say no.

And he has been very ill. How many hours does he have left? Should he spend them watching movies he knows are bad?

Jacob said...

This reminds of Khan v. Ottawa (University Of) where a law student sued after failing her evidence exam. She claimed that she handed in 4 booklets but only 3 had been marked.

The prof's comment: "More of the same wouldn't have been beneficial."

Revenant said...

How many hours does he have left? Should he spend them watching movies he knows are bad?

If he expects to get paid for watching them, yes. He could always opt to retire and watch good movies on his own dime.

Lem said...

Before Ebert's serious health problem he suffered from a kind of subtle scourge, otherwise known as too-many-thumbs-upitis ;)

Freeman Hunt said...

I reviewed movies for two college papers. I think he's correct that you don't write reviews for movies you don't watch. You don't have to go to anything (though obviously you'd be remiss to skip big films that people will want reviews on), but it's bad to review something you haven't seen to the end.

That's why it's a job and not leisure time. You have to sit through some real junk.

Confession: I didn't leave, but I did fall asleep twice during The Omega Code which probably received my most negative review ever. I did note my naps in the review. (Still I should have been more vigilant, but then college paper money isn't Ebert money, and the review was a student body favorite which made the paper happy.)

mccullough said...

Actually, maybe there's something to doing a review based only on the first 8 minutes of a movie.

The 8-minute review. I loved the first 8 minutes of Speed.

The first 8 minutes of the Godfather are terrific as well.

Lem said...

Lets face it.

If you listened to Ebert (as I used to) you probably seen more James Ivory and Woddy Allen than you care to admit to ;)

Jon Swift said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lem said...

What I want to know is why are the WS games starting so late.

There are probably 8 people in the west coast watching - start the game allready!

Jon Swift said...

I'm glad Roger Ebert has joined the ranks of derrierist film critics.

Joe M. said...

The original review is quite good.

As are his two blog posts explaining himself: the first why he gave a review of 8-minutes, the second why he wished he hadn't. I don't think he had anything to apologize for, but I understand his reasons, and am glad at least that this apology is a reasoned and calm one, and not of the abject and shameful "drinking problem" type we see so much of in politics. It is certainly not as characterized at the link the Professor has provided.

blake said...

Ebert will, of course, be remembered for his contribution to the movie world.

That's right, his screenplay for Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens, and Up!.

I stopped paying attention to Ebert when he reviewed the little horror movie The Hitcher. He and Siskel went on Carson to decry the violence of the film.

But if you actually watch the movie, the fact is you see almost none of the violence. It's almost all implicit or after the fact, except for a scene toward the end which is comparable to a chase scene in an action movie.

It was precisely the sort of horror movie (favoring suspense, implication, and off-screen violence) you could have heard the two bitching about nobody making.

Movie reviews are like Supreme Court cases: First the decisions are made, then the justifications.

blake said...

Let me add, however, that if he said up front that eight minutes was all he was reviewing, more power to him.

Like other "journalists", movie reviewers go into films with heavy bias, indeed, one suspects, with their cute little tagline already made up. ("Chihuahua" is for the dogs, hahahahaha!)

If Ebert says that eight minutes was all he can stand of a movie, and this is why, he's done his job. He has no greater responsibility.

"Eight minutes in, I realized I was wasting what little precious time I have on this planet."

Really, how is that not an excellent review?

Ah, if only. He put the 8 minute thing at the bottom, but he says, the one star is for the first eight minutes. That's fair enough.

I give four stars (out of four) to the first half of Weir's Mosquito Coast, and one star to the rest. You're best walking out after the midpoint.

Host with the Most said...

No one says it better than the commenter on the LA Times article site that Ann linked to:

More discouraging than Ebert's unprofessionalism in reviewing a movie without watching it is his apparent willingness to write off approximately half of America as homophobes due to their support of Sarah Palin. "The Palin Belt?" It's sad to watch a man who was once one of the most respected film critics in the world resort to baseless personal attacks on millions of people that he has never even met, attacks that don't even have anything at all to do with films. I grew up looking forward to reading Ebert's reviews in the local paper before deciding what to see, lately he's only valuable as a meter of what films to avoid, namely, anything he likes...

Oligonicella said...

Ann --

I hate that kind of writing.

For consistency's sake, are you going to tell that to Titus when he let's rip with his equally distrubing, dark (and funny) posts?

Anyway, Ebert says in the review that it's based on 8 minutes, so it's not deceptive. The only issue is whether you think he has an obligation to endure the whole film before opining. I say no.

Would you pass judgment at a trial after hearing opening statements? Same thing, less important.

Pogo said...

I have a feeling God walked out after my first eight minutes.

I don't blame him.

mccullough said...

HwtM:

Ebert's politics are as predictable as a Steven Seagal flick.

Ebert is a perceptive but not brilliant movie critic. I do enjoy his writing stlye.

rcocean said...
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rcocean said...

Ebert has always exhibited a mindless Hollywood liberalism. It comes with the job.

ricpic said...

Oy, is he letting himself in for grief pledging to sit through endless clunkers.

In my experience you can absolutely tell within 10 minutes whether the film has merit or not.

ricpic said...

I have a feeling God walked out after my first eight minutes.

A cry for help?

Don't worry Pogo, I don't love ya, but Kojak does.

Chris Wren said...

I'm a big fan of Ebert. He's smart and witty and he knows how to call crap by its proper name. He coined the expression "Stop the Idiot" to describe plotlines in which if you could stop someone from being an idiot the movie would end in, er, the first 8 minutes.

Pogo said...

His disinterest is keening, however.

Lem said...

Times are a changing.

Andy Warhol's minimum was 15 minutes.

Roger cut it down to 8.

Revenant said...

If you listened to Ebert (as I used to) you probably seen more James Ivory and Woddy Allen than you care to admit to

Not to mention every "'hood" picture ever foisted upon an unsuspecting public by a young black filmmaker. :)

rcocean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Revenant said...

Ebert's politics are as predictable as a Steven Seagal flick.

This is true, but it only really started to get in the way of his ability to do his job during the last eight years, which was well after he'd passed his peak anyway. My personal favorite example of his decent into leftie self-parody was his article a few weeks back in which he berated Sarah Palin for... never having been to Europe. Because, according to Ebert, all intelligent and intellectually curious people want to visit Europe as soon as they can.

Lem said...

Not to mention every "'hood" picture ever foisted upon an unsuspecting public by a young black filmmaker. :)

LOL

mccullough said...

Rev,

I caught that too. Maybe Ebert, who praised Gore's academy award winning documentary, didn't know that trans-atlantic flights leave a huge carbon footprint. Very bad for the environment. Like a year's worth of driving every day.

I love when "journalists" lecture the rest of us who are more educated and better informed than they are about how things are.

Ebert gave "W." four stars. Four stars. That should tell you about Ebert's discerning palate for celluloid these days.

He jumped the shark awhile back but 4 stars for W. It's a fucking Oliver Stone "film" for godsakes.

ricpic said...

I went to Europe but I couldn't find a good hamburger so I came back.

Michael McNeil said...

Sarah Palin has been to Europe. In 2007 she visited members of the Alaska National Guard, who'd been serving in Iraq, in both Germany and Kuwait.

Michael McNeil said...

No doubt many of the films Ebert says are bad really are bad, but I'm reminded of the instance where a pair of those popular film reviewers (I don't remember if Ebert was included or not) solemnly proclaimed the S.F. movie Dune as “the worst movie of the last ten years” — which is complete rot. Not only that, they declared that even people who had read the book and knew the story of Dune couldn't follow the film — which is absolutely untrue.

Revenant said...

He jumped the shark awhile back but 4 stars for W. It's a fucking Oliver Stone "film" for godsakes.

Eh. There's a limit to how bad that movie could be. If you want to talk about truly atrocious judgment, consider that he gave three and a half stars to "The Phantom Menace".

mccullough said...

"The Phantom Menance" was "Chinatown" compared to "W."

"W." wasn't even entertaining Bush-bashing. Stone is still stuck in sophomore year of college.

His movies haven't even made much money in awhile. (I think he's got one movie that grossed over $100 million).

Revenant said...

Unless the guy who played Bush talked like Buckwheat on a helium binge, I refuse to believe "W" could have been even remotely as bad as The Phantom Menace. :)

Lem said...

Roger did notice (to his consternation) the pervasive use of the ticking down digital clocks as a kind of short hand for suspense.

Maybe there was a digital clock in the first 8 minutes of this one, and he just had it ;)

Peter V. Bella said...

Ebert is a tool and nothing more than a legend in is own mind. He is an over paid hack. I remember him from years ago when he used to drink. He was a no talent mean drunk. The only thing that changed is he is no longer a drunk.

Kylos said...

Michael, Dune really is that bad. One of the worst Sci Fi movies I've ever seen, even worse than Star Wars.

Michael McNeil said...

Dune really is that bad.

Lots of people would disagree with you on that. Myself, I don't believe I could possibly have enjoyed “the worst movie of the last ten years.”

blake said...

Lots of people would disagree with you on that. Myself, I don't believe I could possibly have enjoyed “the worst movie of the last ten years.”

It's an acquired talent.

Revenant said...

Myself, I don't believe I could possibly have enjoyed “the worst movie of the last ten years.”

I thoroughly enjoyed "The Doom Generation" AND "Freeway 2". Beat that.

blake said...

I thoroughly enjoyed "The Doom Generation" AND "Freeway 2". Beat that.

I can do all the parts in Plan 9 From Outer Space.

LoafingOaf said...

Althouse has one or twice judged flms she hasn't seen one minute of, which is misguided. But Ebert states he has always revealed when he has walked out of a movie, and he did disclose his walk-out in this review, so that's okay.

LoafingOaf said...

lem: Before Ebert's serious health problem he suffered from a kind of subtle scourge, otherwise known as too-many-thumbs-upitis ;)

I agree with you that he gives too many thumbs up. But you have to understand what a "thumbs up" means, to be fair. I used to be on Ebert's compuserve forum where he'd reply to people every day, and a lot of people questioned his generous thumb. He explained that the "thumbs up" thing became good for marketing, but really you have to read his whole review. He also explained that 3 stars (which get a "thumbs up") simply means that if you're a fan of the genre it's worth checking out. Ebert is a massive movie fan, so it is highly likely he'll give 3 stars to merely decent movies within a genre, many of which lots of people won't think are so good if they're not into that particular genre. It's when he gives 3.5 to 4 stars that he's saying it's a movie he hopes everyone will see.

IOW, Ebert's generous thumb is because he loves movies, and he loves the various genres of movies mostly without snobbery. You have to pay attention to how many stars he actually gave it, and to the print review, in order to get a feel for whether he thinks, say, this is a sci-fi for fans of sci-fi flicks, or this is a sci-fi flick that he hopes everyone will see. 4 stars is a movie he thinks is great regardless of how you feel about the genre. 3 stars is a good movie within its genre. 3.5 is somwhere in between. The print review is what he hopes you'll pay most attention to. This is how I recall he explained it back on his Compuserve forum. And he'd mock Siskel for not writing full-length reviews. But I always thought Siskel had slightly better taste than Ebert!

Revenant said...

Ebert is a massive movie fan, so it is highly likely he'll give 3 stars to merely decent movies within a genre, many of which lots of people won't think are so good if they're not into that particular genre.

That's the excuse he's given for his periodic three-star reviews of movies like "Speed 2: Cruise Control", but it doesn't hold water. He gets flak for those reviews because even fans of the genre -- *especially* fans of the genre -- thought those movies sucked. He also has a habit of giving bad reviews to movies that are generally well-liked by fans of a genre but which he doesn't like as movies. "Saw" and "Pitch Black" got two stars, "Resident Evil" got one, etc.

Ebert's problem is that his tastes are neither highbrow nor mainstream, so nobody can really tell if his written reviews are reliable or not. The various review *shows* worked better, because the audience got to see clips of the movies in question and hear some back-and-forth discussion of them.

Joe said...

The problem with most reviewers, Ebert especially, is that they are both movie buffs and Hollywood insiders--the way they view movies really is different from how the average person views movies. Add to that a reverence for certain personalities for one reason or another (getting invited to screenings being the most basic) and reviewers become rather unreliable in general. The best you can do is figure out which reviewers you reliably agree or disagree with and use that as a guide. It also helps if you learn the lingo--if someone tells me a movie is thoughtful, I avoid it.

One really big problem reviewers face was highlighted by Michael Medved (who I think stinks as a reviewer); he pointed out that a reviewer sees upwards to 300 movies a year, sometimes several in a day, often in an empty theater with only a few other reviewers present. Most movies suck and suck bad--this has always been true--so when you watch three movies in a day and the third movie doesn't completely stink, anyone would end up overrating it.

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RaeJeanne said...

Anyone who uses only one review to determine if a movie is worth seeing deserves whatever they get.