Creator: Roger Ebert
"As chance would have it, I have won the Pulitzer Prize, and so I am qualified. Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks."The First Troper.Roger Joseph Ebert (June 18, 1942 – April 4, 2013) was the film reviewer-in-chief at the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In itself, that would make him important as the elder statesman of film criticism.In 1975, Ebert teamed up with Gene Siskel, reviewer-in-chief at the Chicago Tribune, to present a film review program called Opening Soon at a Theater Near You, the great-grandfather of the Video Review Show, on the local PBS station. The program went to national syndication as Sneak Previews in 1978; in 1982 Siskel & Ebert moved to Syndication on commercial stations across America, as a new but very similar program called At The Movies with Siskel and Ebert (or vice versa). Unexpectedly, this made him one of the two most important movie critics in America. Because the show was televised, many more Americans saw it than read the reviews in the newspapers; because Ebert and Siskel had credentials in real newspapers in a major city first, and didn't review every movie favorably, they could be taken more seriously than most other movie reviewers on television. Siskel and Ebert's passive-aggressive chemistry was the stuff of legend. It was often thought that due to their occasionally hostile on-screen presence when they disagreed, that the two hated each other. However, each considered the other a close friend, even if their relationship was competitive by nature. In fact, in 2009 on the tenth anniversary of Siskel's death, Ebert posted a touching remembrance of his friend on his blog.When Siskel died in 1999, Ebert kept on the show with guest hosts until it was settled that it would be At the Movies with Ebert and Roeper, with Richard Roeper, another Chicago Sun-Times critic. This made him the most important living movie critic in America. The show ended in 2008 partially because his throat cancer was preventing him from doing most of the episodes for over a year and a half. (To do film reviews on television, you have to be able to speak.) Sadly, due to a few surgeries that successfully eradicated his cancer, Ebert lost the ability to speak entirely and part of his lower jaw was removed. During the last few years of his life, he 'spoke' through handwritten notes and a computer speech program. In 2010, a Scottish company created a voice similar to Ebert's own for him to use as his new 'voice', using his DVD commentaries (and not his TV show, since there was always background movie noise and Gene Siskel/Richard Roeper interrupting him) and other similar recordings. Furthermore, his last 'treatments' were such tough going with so much physical cost, he vowed that if the cancer reemerged, he would let it take its course; this eventually transpired in 2013.In 2011, to replace the new At the Movies which had been canceled by its distributor, Ebert and his wife Chaz started their own movie review show on PBS called Ebert Presents At The Movies hosted by Christy Lemire of the Associated Press and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of Mubi, which follows largely the same format as Ebert's other shows. Ebert himself appeared in a segment on the show called "Roger's Office" which features voice over narration (either with the help of either his new 'voice', or a famous friend such as Werner Herzog or Bill Kurtis) of one of his recent reviews or musings.Until his death, Ebert still wrote weekly review columns as well as a daily blog and maintained a very active Twitter account, and every single one of his reviews are available on the Internet, where he was still an influential force in movie criticism's new dominant medium. He also picked up a reputation for being (depending on whom you ask) soft on moviesnote or even more ruthless than before. However, his wrath, when deployed, was legendary. He published three compilations of two-star-and-under reviews during his lifetime; I Hated, Hated, HATED This Movie! (reviews published in 1999 and earlier), Your Movie Sucks (reviews published from 2000–06) and A Horrible Experience of Unbearable Length (reviews published from 2006–11).Roger Ebert printed annual compilations of his movie reviews from The Eighties onward. Also Ebert wrote three books of essays about his favorite movies entitled The Great Movies, with these essays also available on his website in a condensed form.He also wrote Ebert's Little Movie Glossary and Ebert's Bigger Little Movie Glossary, which are books of Film Tropes in The Devil's Dictionary form. (An even bigger movie glossary is on his web page.) They could be considered a proto-TV Tropes in a sense (and the Trope Namer for many).He also maintained a column called "The Movie Answer-Man", where he addressed various topics given to him by reader comments. Sometimes addressing fandom aspects like...
— Roger Ebert on Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo
- One reader comment said that a positive review of a certain film gave him Hype Backlash while a negative review of another film made him want to see it. Ebert's reply was that a critic's job is not to pass judgment on a particular movie, but to give the reader an impression as to whether or not they would want to see it themselves.
- Another review addressed the Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny where one comment said that Wolverine would beat Storm in a fight because he could heal, whereas Storm would die once stabbed by Wolverine. His reply was simply a question of how could someone whose power is healing be more powerful than someone who can control the elements.
Trope Namer for:
Tropes used by the man:
- 3-D Movie: Ebert was a vocal detractor, complaining often that filmmakers used them simply as a gimmick to throw things at the audience, and especially complaining when the technology led to a darker and dirtier picture. He advocated for 60fps, which he saw as a clearer and more vivid medium, and was disappointed that it never caught on. He gave fair shakes to Avatar, however.
- 8.8: One of only two critics to like Speed 2: Cruise Control (the other being Gene Siskel) on Rotten Tomatoes and the only one not to like Brazil. Additionally, he gave The Godfather, Part II three stars, his lowest "good movie" rating, but later included it on his list of Great Movies, though while still standing by his original rating.
- Animation Age Ghetto: Provides the page quotation, and highly disliked it.
- Author Appeal: Asked in an interview why a respected, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic would choose to be a scriptwriter for a sexplotation director like Russ Meyer, one of Ebert's friends considered for a moment and replied, "Boobs."
- Broke the Rating Scale:
Ebert: Note: I am not giving a star rating to Pink Flamingos, because stars simply seem not to apply. It should be considered not as a film but as a fact, or perhaps as an object.Ebert: I am required to award stars to movies I review. This time, I refuse to do it. The star rating system is unsuited to this film. Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don't shine.
- Ebert occasionally gave out zero-star ratings. These differed from his occasional "no-star rating" ratings in that to earn zero stars, a movie had to offend his moral sensibilities in some way. This is why The Human Centipede II got zero stars (as opposed to the first movie, which got no rating) and why the original version of Death Race got zero stars vs. the remake's half-star even though Ebert admitted that he felt the former was more competently made.
- He sometimes didn't give a rating at all.
- Catch Phrase/Famous Last Words: "See you at the movies." Also his sign-off words for his last essay.
- Deadpan Snarker: His sarcasm could be particularly sharp.
- Deaf Composer: After thyroid cancer deprived him of the ability to eat solid foods, he took up cooking as a hobby."To be sure, health problems have prevented me from eating. That did not discourage my cooking. It became an exercise more pure, freed of biological compulsion."
- Face Death with Dignity: He wrote several blogs about how he didn't fear letting his cancer take its course if it reappeared, because "what was there to fear?"
- Four Point Scale: Following the Sun-Times editorial policy, Ebert assigned his movie reviews four-star ratings, but often commented on the limitations of the system, such as in his blog post "You Give Out Too Many Stars." He notes that his reviews do tend to skew positive, and that he considered 2.5 stars to be a pan. He also wrote a lengthy series of appreciations of Great Movies, all of which were given four stars. That said, he never hesitated to award low marks to bad movies, though for one to earn zero stars, he had to consider it not just bad but somehow immoral.
- Go Out with a Smile: His wife Chaz described his passing as very quiet and simple, with him just looking at her and the kids and smiling.
- Insult to Rocks:
"This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels."
- Ebert's review for Tom Green's Freddy Got Fingered is as follows:
- And A Lot Like Love: "To call A Lot Like Love dead in the water is an insult to water."
- And The Spirit: "To call the characters cardboard is to insult a useful packing material."
- And, of course, The Village: "Eventually the secret of Those, etc., is revealed. To call it an anticlimax would be an insult not only to climaxes but to prefixes."
- Of Battle: Los Angeles, he said: "Here's a science-fiction film that's an insult to the words 'science' and 'fiction,' and the hyphen in between them."
- His G.I. Joe: Retaliation review reads: "To say G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a video game for the big screen is to insult a number of video games that are far more creative, challenging and better-looking." Mr. Ebert never was a fan of video games, either.
- Just Here for Godzilla: Ebert once confessed that when he was a boy in The Fifties, he and his friends would go to see women's wrestling matches at carnivals in the hope that there would be a Wardrobe Malfunction.
- Let's See You Do Better:
- The best known example of Ebert's law that actually involves Ebert himself comes from a review of Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. Star Rob Schneider took offense to an article by Patrick Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times, pointing out that several major studios turned down the chance to finance the year's Best Picture nominees while financing a sequel to a crude sex comedy. After reading it, he took out a full-page ad in the Hollywood Reporter and called Goldstein a "hack" because he had never won a Pulitzer Prize. In Ebert's review of the film, he taunted Schneider and said that he himself actually did win the Pulitzer, and thus by Schnider's criteria he was fully qualified to tell Schneider that "your movie sucks". The story took an unexpected turn after several back-and-forth barbs in the press. After one of Ebert's cancer surgeries, Schneider sent Ebert flowers. Ebert conceded that while Schneider may make bad movies, he's a good man. Aww.
- Roger Ebert himself is an Inverted Trope of this; he's a revered, Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic, but his actual filmography is something else.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The 1998 American version of Godzilla had the mayor of New York City as an Ebert lookalike. Used as a Take That, Critics! by the end of the film when his aide (an Expy of Gene Siskel) gives his job performance a thumbs down. This was because Siskel and Ebert had criticized Emerich's earlier productions. Ebert was offended not by the portrayal, but thought that if Emerich hated them so much he should have had the balls to have Godzilla eat them.
- Overly Narrow Superlative: In his review of the movie Leaves of Grass, he calls it "the most intelligent, philosophical and poetic film I can imagine that involves five murders in the marijuana-dealing community of Oklahoma and includes John Prine singing 'Illegal Smile.'"
- Paddleball Shot: He cited this gimmick as one reason he disliked 3-D Movies.
- Poe's Law:
- Ebert admitted that the paradox is true of all satire, to some extent. In order to poke fun at something, you first have to play it straight, and unless you beat your audience over the head with the point that you really don't agree with what you're depicting, there's always going to be someone who takes you seriously.
- Ebert went political and wrote a blog post giving a statement of creationist beliefs, with the intention of making a point about people's inability to recognize irony. While many people did see the satire, a significant number of readers either thought he was being serious or assumed the site had been hacked. PZ Myers criticized the article, pointing out that when there are so many people making the same claims without irony, the joke becomes undetectable to anyone who doesn't already know Ebert's stance on the issue.
- Ebert records in his biography that after producing Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, an infamously over-the-top parody of sexploitation films, he and Russ Meyer met the Sex Pistols, and were nonplussed when Johnny Rotten said he admired the film because it was so true to life.
- Quotes Fit for a Trailer: Ebert observed in Ebert's Glossary of Movie Terms that this is apparently the only reason a character ever exclaims "This just keeps getting better and better!"
- Rant-Inducing Slight: Filmmakers actually invoking Not Screened for Critics as a defense of their work was a sore point for Ebert. Ebert's responses to Kevin Smith and Rob Schneider are two classic examples of this, and from 2005 to 2006, he instituted the "Wagging Finger Of Shame" for all movies that were not screened for critics (It was discontinued when Ebert realized Hollywood wasn't taking the "Wagging Finger Of Shame" seriously.)
- Reality Is Unrealistic:
- When reviewing the 1998 remake of Psycho he complained of the evident electronically tweaked voice of the cop to make it sound unusually deep for effect. After someone wrote to him in the "Questions for the Movie Answer Man" column correcting him, he had to add a footnote to later versions of the review saying "I was wrong: that's James Remar's real voice."
- His original review of Walk the Line was under the impression that a) Joaquin Phoenix was lip-synching to Johnny Cash's music, as he felt it was too uncanny to be Phoenix and b) Johnny Cash proposing to June Carter mid-song was a Hollywood fabrication, although one that Ebert liked anyway. To his astonishment, he learned through the credits that Phoenix did indeed do his own singing, and through responses to the Movie Answer Man, that Cash proposed to Carter as depicted in the film, which was then amended in the review.
- Retirony: Was a victim of it. In his final blog post "A Leave of Presence", he announced his retirement from the Chicago Sun-Times for health reasons and planned to pick a set of writers to take his place on his website. However, he planned to still review the films he wanted to review. Two days later, he died.
- Review Ironic Echo: He sometimes used the dialogue or title from a movie against them when he really disliked it.
- "'This sucks on so many levels.' — Dialogue from Jason X. Rare for a movie to so frankly describe itself."
- From his review of The Last Airbender: review: "I close with the hope that the title proves prophetic."
- "Dear God is the kind of movie where you walk out repeating the title."
- "All I want for Christmas is to never see All I Want for Christmas again."
- "Oh no, not You Again."
- Sci Fi Ghetto: Disliked this view; he noted that he reviewed movies based on both their artistic worth and how much he thought their intended audience would enjoy them.
- Scenery Porn: Ebert was willing to give high scores to movies solely for being visually impressive and creative, even if their stories may be lacking. Examples include TRON and Final Fantasy The Spirits Within.
- He also mentioned that he enjoyed The Matrix "just to look at it".
- Self-Deprecation: At a tribute to the late Chicago columnist Mike Royko, Ebert gamely read Royko's snarky review of Ebert's screenplay for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
- So Bad, It's Good: He gave movies like this 1-star, as opposed to zero-star ratings, which he reserved for films either so bad they were terrible or which morally offended him with racism or voyeuristic violence. This means his shit-list of films given zero-stars is not as fun to watch as you might think, since it is composed almost entirely of truly awful films mixed with soul-destroying Gorn.
- Sophisticated as Hell: Despite his somewhat highbrow image. See the page quotation, for instance.
- Strawman Has a Point: Ebert's review of The Life of David Gale, which is a different type of this trope wherein the movie's central characters go so ridiculously far to show that their position is right, you cannot help but be disgusted with them. He also provides the page quotation for this trope, referring to I Am Sam.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Gene Siskel, which was a big part of what made their eponymous show so enjoyable to watch. See these outtakes for instance. After a while they practically became Like an Old Married Couple.Siskel: [Ebert] may be an asshole, but he's my asshole.
- Volleying Insults: A war of words erupted between The Brown Bunny director Vincent Gallo and Ebert, with Ebert writing that The Brown Bunny was the worst film in the history of Cannes, and Gallo retorting by calling Ebert a "fat pig with the physique of a slave trader." Ebert then responded, paraphrasing a statement attributed to Winston Churchill: "One day I will be thin, but Vincent Gallo will always be the director of The Brown Bunny." Gallo then claimed to have put a hex on Ebert's colon, cursing the critic with cancer. Ebert then replied that watching a video of his colonoscopy had been more entertaining than watching The Brown Bunny.
- It should be noted here that Gallo went and re-edited The Brown Bunny; Ebert's review of the revision is a complete 180-degree switch in tone, proclaiming that Gallo's editing made The Brown Bunny a totally different, and better film. Ebert even went so far as to say he was glad he saw the original cut, as flawed as he thought it was, so he was able to better appreciate the revised edition.
- Willing Suspension of Disbelief: "I know full well I'm expected to Suspend My Disbelief. Unfortunately, my disbelief is very heavy, and during Ocean's Thirteen, the suspension cable snapped."
- "...and until next time, the balcony is closed."