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Roger Ebert Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trade Mark (5) | Trivia (69) | Personal Quotes (187)

Overview (4)

Born in Urbana, Illinois, USA
Died in Chicago, Illinois, USA  (metastatic cancer)
Birth NameRoger Joseph Ebert
Height 5' 8" (1.73 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Roger Joseph Ebert was the all-time best-known, most successful movie critic in cinema history, when one thinks of his establishing a rapport with both serious cineastes and the movie-going public and reaching more movie fans via television and print than any other critic. He became the first and only movie critic to win a Pulitzer Prize (it would be 28 years before another film critic, Stephen Hunter, would win journalism's top tchotchke). His opinions likely were relied on by more movie-goers than any other critic in cinema history, making Roger Ebert the gold standard for film criticism.

Ebert was born in Urbana, Illinois, to Annabel (Stumm), a bookkeeper, and Walter Harry Ebert, an electrician. He was married to Chaz Ebert. Roger Ebert died on April 4, 2013, in Chicago, Illinois.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Spouse (1)

Chaz Ebert (18 July 1992 - 4 April 2013) (his death)

Trade Mark (5)

His no-nonsense style of writing
His spectacles
One of the "Two Thumbs Up" (which has literally been trademarked)
Biting, razor sharp sarcasm
The use of creative and bizarre, but apt metaphors in his reviews.

Trivia (69)

Said that his favorite actress of all time was Ingrid Bergman.
He had his right thumb trademarked.
Awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Colorado.
He has a stepdaughter, Sonia, and three step-grandchildren.
Film critic. Has written 15 books.
Was a film lecturer at the University of Chicago Fine Arts Program.
Hobbies: walking, reading, travel, sketching, cosmology, genetic evolution.
Member of Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame since 1997.
Attended the University of Illinois, won national college award for his campus newspaper columns.
Attended and graduated from Urbana High School in Urbana, Illinois (1959). Sportswriter at age 15.
Hollywood Radio and Television Society's Co-Man of the Year 1993 (with Gene Siskel).
Chicago's Erie Way was renamed Siskel & Ebert Way in 1995.
His widow is an attorney.
His home had a mini-movie theater and a glass enclosed workout room, plus he had a life-sized statue of Oliver Hardy.
Once told David Letterman that if he were trapped on a deserted island with only one film to watch, that film would be Citizen Kane (1941).
He went to the draft for the Vietnam War and almost got in, but he was told he was overweight and was rejected. He was 26 years old and weighed 206 pounds at that time.
Brother in the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity.
Estimated he saw well over 10,000 films in his lifetime.
Shoulder surgery in May 2002 caused him to miss attending Cannes Film Festival for first time in 25 years. Broke left shoulder in two places after slipping on wet floor.
His fourth annual EbertFest of Overlooked Films held at Virginia Theatre in Champaign, Illinois, drew almost twenty thousand people over five days in March 2002.
Was high school classmates with David Ogden Stiers.
Considered the film I Spit on Your Grave (1978) to be the worst movie he has ever seen, then called its 2010 remake worse.
First person ever to win the Pulitzer Prize for film criticism; in 2003, Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post became the second.
He drew criticism when he stated that he considered The Passion of the Christ (2004) to be 'the most violent film I've ever seen'. Many misinterpreted that to mean that he felt that the violence in the film was negative and exploitive (even though he gave the film a glowing review). He stated in his Q and A column that "The effect of movie violence depends on subjective factors, including the purpose the filmmakers had in using it."
Was an avid user and fanatic of IMDb (Internet Movie Database).
Considered Goodfellas (1990) the best mob movie ever made.
At the end of the 1990s, he and Martin Scorsese made a list of the top ten films of the decade. Roger's were: 1. Hoop Dreams (1994) 2. Pulp Fiction (1994) 3. Goodfellas (1990) 4. Fargo (1996) 5. Three Colors: Red, White and Blue 6. Schindler's List (1993) 7. Breaking the Waves (1996) 8. Leaving Las Vegas (1995) 9. Malcolm X (1992) 10. JFK (1991).
Wrote an introduction for the book "Mad at a Movies", a compilation of past movie satires from the pages of Mad magazine. He credits Mad's movie satires as one of his earliest inspirations for becoming a film critic.
Believed the Academy's biggest mistake was giving Gladiator (2000) the award for 'Best Picture' of the year in 2000.
Said his favorite actor was Robert Mitchum.
Survived a bout with thyroid cancer, as well as a cancerous salivary gland tumor.
Spent a year on a Rotary fellowship at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. He later started a Ph.D at the University of Chicago, which he did not finish.
Despite undergoing debilitating cancer treatment and radiation in 2004, Ebert continued his award-winning movie reviews, writing an incredible 274 reviews that year, plus 26 essays on great movies and 26 versions of his column "The Movie Answer Man". He also covered various film festivals (including Cannes) and the Oscars.
Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6834 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on June 23, 2005.
Author of the "Boulder Pledge" 1996 - a strong statement against spam in response to hearing the fact some people will purchase things advertised via spam. If people don't buy things, there's no reason to send this.
Three of the five films he's chosen from 2000 to 2004 as the best of the year, have all won their lead actresses the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Halle Berry in Monster's Ball (2001) (his choice for the best film of 2001), Charlize Theron in Monster (2003) (his choice for the best film of 2003) and Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby (2004) (his choice for the best film of 2004).
Had an extensive collection of cartoon character toys, dolls and action figures.
His top ten films of all time were: The General (1926), Citizen Kane (1941), Tokyo Story (1953), Vertigo (1958), La Dolce Vita (1960), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972), Apocalypse Now (1979), Raging Bull (1980) and The Tree of Life (2011).
Wrote his review of Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties (2006) in first person as Garfield.
He was an only child.
On July 1, 2006, he had surgery to repair a burst blood vessel near his salivary gland, near where he had his previous cancer operation.
Biography/bibliography in: "Contemporary Authors." New Revision Series, volume 151, pages 132-135. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale (2006).
Panned Reservoir Dogs (1992) on his show while praising Cop & ½ (1993).
Claimed in his original review of Rocky (1976) that Sylvester Stallone was the "next Marlon Brando".
Police departments across the United States, including the makers of Cops (1989), hold a review at their annual conventions, of actual arrest/cross examine procedure on videotape. It is titled "Fiscal and Deebert", spoofing the critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.
Shared the birthplace of Urbana, Illinois with the character Hal 9000, as specified in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) one of his favorite films. He held a birthday party for Hal 9000 at the University of Illinois in Urbana in 1997 (Hal's birth-date in the novel, not the film) celebrated with a screening of 2001 and its co-writer Arthur C. Clarke in attendance via satellite.
Said that the first movie he ever saw was A Day at the Races (1937) starring The Marx Brothers.
As a result of suffering from thyroid cancer, he had to have his lower jaw removed. He lost all ability to speak, eat and drink. His legs were also weakened from unsuccessful attempts at building a new jaw from other bone and tissue. He was nourished through infusions and a tube and communicated via his computer or through signs he made with his hands. Despite all health problems, he continued to work as a movie critic.
As of December 2010, he has twice refused to assign a star rating to a film: once for Pink Flamingos (1972) and once for The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009). In both cases, he explained his reasoning was that a film made to disgust the viewer cannot be judged as "good" or "bad", but either must be accepted for what it is or not at all.
Longtime personal friends with Joe Mantegna.
In reference to a film adaptation of the Russ Meyer biography, "Big Bosoms and Square Jaws", Roger said that he would want to be portrayed by either Jack Black or Philip Seymour Hoffman.
His favorite film of the naughts was Synecdoche, New York (2008). His other top ten are The Hurt Locker (2008), Monster (2003), Juno (2007), Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005), Chop Shop (2007), Le fils (2002), 25th Hour (2002), Almost Famous (2000) and My Winnipeg (2007).
Editor of "The Daily Illini" during his senior year at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. One of his first movie reviews was a review of La Dolce Vita (1960), published in The Daily Illini on October 4, 1961, when he was a sophomore.
Born on the same day as Paul McCartney.
Longtime friends with Leonard Maltin and Oprah Winfrey.
His final published review was for To the Wonder (2012).
Met a young, unfamiliar critic Gene Siskel in 1969 at a Chicago Newspaper. They became friends for 30 years until Siskel's death, early in 1999.
Mentor of Richard Roeper.
One of his favorite films was Dark City (1998) to which he gave four stars.
Is referenced, along with Gene Siskel, in the song "The Bad Touch" by Bloodhound Gang.
His paternal grandparents were German. His mother was of Irish and Dutch descent.
Cited The Third Man (1949) as his favourite film for the AFI book "Private Screenings".
Died four days before Annette Funicello. Both could not eat, drink or talk in their last years; both were born in 1942 and died at age 70.
During his short stint as a screenwriter in Hollywood, he always worked with well-known sexploitation director Russ Meyer, starting with Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970).
A life-size bronze statue of Ebert was unveiled outside the Virginia Theatre in Champaign, Illinois on April 24, 2014. The statue depicts Ebert sitting in the middle of three theater seats giving his "thumbs up".
Was extremely angry when Hoop Dreams (1994) did not win a single Oscar, and was not even nominated for Best Documentary.
The rarest thing he would do in a review was give a film zero stars out of four.
Seven films Roger called "best of the year" did not make Gene Siskel's annual list. Following Gene's death, one (Monster's Ball [2001]) of Roger's annual top films didn't make Richard Roeper's annual list.
Six films Roger selected as "best of the year" later went on win receive Oscars for "Best Picture.".

Personal Quotes (187)

I am utterly bored by celebrity interviews. Most celebrities are devoid of interest.
I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter. You can't say it wasn't interesting. My lifetime's memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.
No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough
We live in a box of space and time. Movies are windows in its walls.
Old theatres are irreplaceable. They could never be duplicated at today's costs - but more importantly, their spirit could not be duplicated because they remind us of a day when going to the show was a more glorious and escapist experience. I think a town's old theatres are the sanctuary of its dreams.
From his review of North (1994): I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every stupid simpering vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.
When a movie character is really working, we become that character.
Pearl Harbor (2001) is a two-hour movie squeezed into three hours, about how on December 7, 1941, the Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (1995) is about as close as you can get to absolute nothing and still have a product to project on the screen.
[on the creature in Resident Evil (2002)] That creature is called The Licker because it has a nine-foot tongue. At one point it has its tongue nailed to the track and is dragged along the third rail; I hate it when that happens.
[on Mannequin (1987)] This movie is a real curiosity. It's dead. I don't mean it's bad. A lot of bad movies are fairly throbbing with life. Mannequin is dead. The wake lasts 90 minutes and then we can leave the theater. Halfway through, I was ready for someone to lead us in reciting the rosary.
[on Schindler's List (1993)] Of the thousands of movies that I've seen, none has touched me more deeply, spiritually, emotionally with just an outpouring of emotion.
[on Hoop Dreams (1994)] A film like 'Hoop Dreams' is what the movies are for. It takes us, shakes us, and make us think in new ways about the world around us. It gives us the impression of having touched life itself.
[on Baby Geniuses (1999)] The movie involves a genius baby named Sly, who escapes from the lab and tries to organize fellow babies in revolt. The nauseating sight of little Sly on a disco floor, dressed in the white suit from 'Saturday Night Fever' and dancing to 'Stayin' Alive', had me pawing under my seat for the bag my Subway Gardenburger came in, in case I felt the sudden need to recycle it.
[on New York Minute (2004)] This is a dumb movie about dumb people.
[on Charlie's Angels (2000)] This movie doesn't have a brain in its three pretty little heads.
[on Swingers (1996)] I saw it, I enjoyed it. I probably wouldn't walk more than five blocks to see it again. And on a cold day I'd have to think about it.
[on Evil Dead II (1987)] "Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn" is a comedy disguised as a blood-soaked shock-a-rama. It looks superficially like a routine horror movie, a vomitorium designed to separate callow teenagers from their lunch. But look a little closer and you'll realize that the movie is a fairly sophisticated satire. Level One viewers will say it's in bad taste. Level Two folks like myself will perceive that it is about bad taste.
[on Leaving Las Vegas (1995)] Oh, this movie is so sad! It is sad not because of the tragic lives of its characters, but because of their goodness and their charity.
[on the re-release of Pink Flamingos (1972)] John Waters' 'Pink Flamingos' has been restored for its 25th anniversary revival and, with any luck at all, that means I won't have to see it again for another 25 years. If I haven't retired by then, I will. How do you review a movie like this? I am reminded of an interview I once did with a man who ran a carnival sideshow. His star was a geek, who bit off the heads of live chickens and drank their blood. "He's the best geek in the business," this man assured me. "What is the difference between a good geek and a bad geek?" I asked. "You wanna examine the chickens?".
[on The Scent of Green Papaya (1993)] Here is a film so placid and filled with sweetness that watching it is like listening to soothing music.
[on The Blues Brothers (1980)} This is the sherman tank of movie musicals.
Caligula (1979) is sickening, utterly worthless, shameful trash. If it is not the worst film I have ever seen, that makes it all the more shameful: People with talent allowed themselves to participate in this travesty. Disgusted and unspeakably depressed, I walked out of the film after two hours of its 170-minute length. People learn fast. "This movie," said the lady in front of me at the drinking fountain, "is the worst piece of shit I have ever seen".
[on The Fearless Vampire Killers: Vampires 101 (1967)] There's a girl dressed like a vampire standing in a window on Randolph Street, and if you can make her laugh, you get two free tickets to 'The Fearless Vampire Killers'...I've cooked up a whizzero of an indoor contest. It works this way. First, you buy two tickets to 'The Fearless Vampire Killers, etc.' Then, you go inside and - get this - if you don't laugh even once during the whole movie, you get your money back...The night I went to see 'The Fearless Vampire Killers', for example, the whole audience would have won because nobody laughed. One or two people cried, and a lady behind me dropped a bag of M&Ms which rolled under the seats, and a guy on the center aisle sneezed at 43 minutes past the hour.
[on The Lonely Guy (1984)] I ordered a box of popcorn and went into the theater. "Good luck," an usher told me. "You're going to need it." He was right.
[on Before Sunrise (1995)] The R rating for this film, based on a few four-letter words, is entirely unjustified. It is an ideal film for teenagers.
[on Jack Frost (1998)] The snowman gave me the creeps. Never have I disliked a movie character more. They say state-of-the-art special effects can create the illusion of anything on the screen, and now we have proof: It's possible for the Jim Henson folks and Industrial Light and Magic to put their heads together and come up with the most repulsive single creature in the history of special effects... To see the snowman is to dislike the snowman.
Films like Fargo (1996) are why I love the movies.
We Americans like to see evil in terms of guns and crime and terrorists and drug smuggling - big, broad immoral activities. We rarely make movies about how one person can be personally cruel to another, through their deep understanding of what might hurt the other person the most.
People ask me sometimes if I ever change my mind about a review and I no longer agree with what I said in my review of The Graduate (1967), that the Simon & Garfunkel songs are instantly forgettable. I don't think that was right.
[on Deep Throat (1972)] There are, I have been told, 17 scenes of explicit sex in the movie 'Deep Throat'. I did not count them myself, I saw the movie, but I forgot to start counting until too late. Harold, who is a bartender in the Old Town area, counted them on Friday afternoon, and we will have to take his word. Harold is not often mistaken in these matters. He has a keen eye and a good memory.
[on Freddy Got Fingered (2001)] 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.
[on God Told Me To (1976)] As I left the theater, dazed, I saw a crowd across the street. A young man in a strait jacket (try not to get ahead of the story, please) was preparing to be suspended in mid-air hundreds of inches above the ground, and to escape, Houdini-style. At the moment he was still standing on the sidewalk - but, believe me, it was still a better show.
[on Deathmaster (1972)] [Robert] Quarry arrives at dawn in an old coffin that floats up on the beach at Santa Monica. If memory serves, it is the same beach used for the opening scene of Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957). Crab monsters would be a relief, in fact, but what with the price of crabmeat these days they have all gone into different lines of work or simply dropped out of circulation. The next time you eat a crabmeat cocktail, reflect that it could be eating you.
[on A Lot Like Love (2005)] To call 'A Lot Like Love' dead in the water is an insult to water.
[on The Longest Yard (2005)] There is a sense in which attacking this movie is like kicking a dog for not being better at calculus.
[on Little Indian, Big City (1994)] Through a stroke of good luck, the entire third reel of the film was missing the day I saw it. I went back to the screening room two days later to view the missing reel. It was as bad as the rest, but nothing could have saved this film. As my colleague Gene Siskel observed, "If the third reel had been the missing footage from Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) this movie still would have sucked.".
[on Americathon (1979)] If you plan to miss this movie, better miss it quickly; I doubt if it'll be around to miss for long.
[on Body of Evidence (1993)] It has to be seen to be believed - something I do not advise.
[on I, a Woman (1965)] If you can miss only one movie this year, make it 'I, A Woman'. Here is a Swedish film which very nearly restores my faith in the cinema, demonstrating that all the other crummy movies I've had to sit through in this job weren't so bad. Not by comparison, anyway.
I can report, however, why I didn't find The Jerk (1979) very funny. It began to grind on me right at the beginning because it was depending on whats rather than whys for its laughs. I'll explain. It seems to me that there are two basic approaches to any kind of comedy, and in a burst of oversimplification I'll call them the Funny Hat and the Funny Logic approaches. The difference is elementary: In the first, we're supposed to laugh because the comic is wearing the funny hat, and in the second it's funny because of his reasons for wearing the funny hat.
[on why his movie ratings are relative, not concrete] It doesn't work that way because people should be smart enough to listen to what Richard Roeper and I say instead of looking at the dumb thumbs and the dumb stars because there are gradations and contexts that go on.
A depressing number of people seem to process everything literally. They are to wit as a blind man is to a forest, able to find every tree, but each one coming as a surprise.
[on First Descent (2005)] "As the decade progressed, so did snowboarding," we learn at one point, leading me to reflect that as the decade progressed, so did time itself.
The distribution system seems to be set up to turn every multiplex in this country into an idiot's convention.
[To Gene Siskel, when he claimed that David Lynch, director of Blue Velvet (1986), was playing him like a piano.] Well, the next time someone plays me, he better have some music that's worth listening to.
I am against censorship and believe that no films or books should be burned or banned, but film school study is one thing and a general release is another. Any new Disney film immediately becomes part of the consciousness of almost every child in America, and I would not want to be a black child going to school in the weeks after Song of the South (1946) was first seen by my classmates.
[on Batman Begins (2005)] To get straight to the point, 'Batman Begins' is the fifth Batman movie, but the first to get it right; to get it absolutely right!
It's saying something about a director's work when the most well-rounded and socialized hero in any of [Tim Burton's] films is Pee-wee Herman.
One thing I've discovered is that I love my job more than I thought I did, and I love my wife even more!
The point is not to avoid all Stupid Movies, but to avoid being a Stupid Moviegoer.
[on Terry Zwigoff/Crumb (1994)]: Zwigoff was plagued by agonizing back pain all during the period when he was making Crumb (1994) and slept with a gun under his pillow, he told me, in case he had to end his misery in the middle of the night. When Crumb (Robert Crumb) didn't want to cooperate with the documentary, Zwigoff threatened to shoot himself. Crumb does not often meet his match, but did with Zwigoff.
When you ask a friend if Hellboy (2004) is any good, you're not asking if it's any good compared to Mystic River (2003), you're asking if it's any good compared to The Punisher (2004). And my answer would be, on a scale of one to four, if "Superman" is four, then Hellboy (2004) is three and The Punisher (2004) is two. In the same way, if American Beauty (1999) gets four stars, then "[The United States of] Leland" clocks in at about two.
Prior to the Academy Awards ceremony at which Bowling for Columbine (2002) won for Best Documentary: I'd like to see Michael Moore get up there and let 'em have it with both barrels and really let loose and give them a real rabble-rousing speech.
[on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)] There are said to be many levels to the video game, but I succeeded in penetrating only to the second before I realized I had to abandon Ninja Turtles that instant, or risk permanent psychic damage... but this movie is nowhere near as bad as it might have been, and probably is the best possible Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie... The plot? Do you care?
American films are usually about one or two stars and a handful of well-known character actors, while Europeans are still capable of pitching in together for an ensemble piece.
[on The Village (2004)] Eventually, the secret of Those, etc., is revealed. To call it an anticlimax would be an insult not only to climaxes but to prefixes.
[on Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002)] A miniaturized assassination robot small enough to slip through the bloodstream would cost how much? Millions? And it is delivered by dart? How's this for an idea: use a poison dart, and spend the surplus on school lunches.
There was a time when the feature was invariably preceded by a cartoon, and audiences smiled when they heard the theme music for "Looney Tunes" and "Merrie Melodies" from Warner Bros. Cartoons have long since been replaced by 20 minutes of paid commercials in many theaters, an emblem of the greed of exhibitors and their contempt for their audiences. In those golden days, the cartoon (and even a newsreel and a short subject) was a gift from the management.
[on Death Sentence (2007)] ...Basically this is a movie about a lot of people shooting at each other, and during the parts I liked, the action audience will probably go out to get popcorn, or a tattoo or something.
[on Robert Mitchum] He has what many of the great 1930s and 1940s actors who are today's cult heroes had: a capacity to retain and even expand their dignity, their image, their self-possession, even in the midst of the worst possible material. You see Mitchum in bad movies, but you can never spot him being bad.
[on Red Dawn (1984)] Indeed, there's a lot this movie doesn't pause for, including a rational explanation of the plot.
[on Southland Tales (2006)] Note to readers planning to write me messages informing me that this review was no more than a fevered rant: You are correct.
[on Slither (2006)] There are better movies opening this weekend. There are better movies opening every weekend. But 'Slither' has a competence to it, an ability to manipulate obligatory horror scenes in a way that works. Given my theory of the star rating system, which suggests movies should be rated by their genres, 'Slither' gets two if '28 Days Later' gets three. On the other hand, 'Basic Instinct 2' also opens today, and in the genre of slick and classy big-star thrillers, if 'Fatal Attraction' gets 2-1/2 stars, then 'Basic Instinct 2; gets 1-1/2. On the third hand, a lot of people would probably enjoy 'Basic Instinct 2' more than 'Slither'. One of these days, I'm going to have to take that star rating system and feed it to a meat-eating slime-slug.
[on Basic Instinct 2 (2006)] Here is a movie so outrageous and preposterous it is either (a) suicidal or (b) throbbing with a horrible fascination. I lean toward (b). It's a lot of things, but boring is not one of them. I cannot recommend the movie, but ... why the hell can't I? Just because it's godawful? What kind of reason is that for staying away from a movie? Godawful and boring, *that* would be a reason...My 1-1/2-star rating [of the movie] is like a cold shower, designed to take my mind away from giving it four stars.
[on 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)] The genius is not in how much Stanley Kubrick does in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but in how little. This is the work of an artist so sublimely confident that he doesn't include a single shot simply to keep our attention. He reduces each scene to its essence, and leaves it on screen long enough for us to contemplate it, to inhabit it in our imaginations. Alone among science-fiction movies, 2001 is not concerned with thrilling us, but with inspiring our awe.
[on Betty Blue (1986)] Now comes a throwback to the old days when the phrase "French movie" did not mean art and "art film" didn't mean art, either, and everybody knew exactly what they did mean, and had their exact change counted out before they dashed up to the box office, so nobody would see them going into a dirty movie. If you can get anything more than that out of Betty Blue, consider it a bonus.
[on Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo (2005)] Does this sound like a movie you want to see? It sounds to me like a movie that Columbia Pictures and the film's producers...should be discussing in long, sad conversations with their inner child.
[on Mister Lonely (2007)] I wish there were a way to write a positive two-star review. Harmony Korine's 'Mister Lonely' is an odd, desperate film, lost in its own audacity, and yet there are passages of surreal beauty and preposterous invention that I have to admire. The film doesn't work, and indeed seems to have no clear idea of what its job is, and yet (sigh) there is the temptation to forgive its trespasses simply because it is utterly, if pointlessly, original.
[on Knowing (2009)] The plot involves the most fundamental of all philosophical debates: Is the universe deterministic or random? Is everything in some way preordained or does it happen by chance? If that questions sounds too abstract, wait until you see this film, which poses it in stark terms: What if we could know in advance when the Earth will end?
[on Ballast (2008)] Especially in its opening scenes, 'Ballast' is "slower" and "quieter" than we usually expect. You know what? So is life, most of the time. We don't wake up and immediately start engaging with plot points. But 'Ballast' inexorably grows and deepens and gathers power and absorbs us. I always say I hardly ever cry at sad films, but I sometimes do, just a little, at films about good people.
[on Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)] Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a horrible experience of unbearable length, briefly punctuated by three or four amusing moments. One of these involves a dog-like robot humping the leg of the heroine. Such are the meager joys.
[on Happy Gilmore (1996)] Happy Gilmore is filled with so many plugs it looks like a product placement sampler in search of a movie. I probably missed a few, but I counted Diet Pepsi, Pepsi, Pepsi Max, Subway sandwich shops, Budweiser (in bottles, cans and Bud-dispensing helmets), Michelob, Visa cards, Bell Atlantic, AT&T, Sizzler, Wilson, Golf Digest, the ESPN sports network, and Top-Flite golf balls. I'm sure some of those got in by accident (the modern golf tour has ads plastered on everything but the grass), but I'm fairly sure Subway paid for placement, since they scored one Subway sandwich eaten outside a store, one date in a Subway store, one Subway soft drink container, two verbal mentions of Subway, one Subway commercial starring Happy, a Subway T-shirt, and a Subway golf bag. Halfway through the movie, I didn't know what I wanted more: laughs, or mustard.
[on Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo (2005)] Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks.
[on G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)] G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a 118-minute animated film with sequences involving the faces and other body parts of human beings. It is sure to be enjoyed by those whose movie appreciation is defined by the ability to discern that moving pictures and sound are being employed to depict violence...Yet I say this movie is certainly better than 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen'. How so? Admittedly, it doesn't have as much cleavage. But the high-tech hardware is more fun to look at than the transforming robots, the plot is as preposterous, and although the noise is just as loud, it's more the deep bass rumbles of explosions than the ear-piercing bang of steel robots pounding on each other.
[on The Hot Chick (2002)] The MPAA rates this PG-13. It is too vulgar for anyone under 13, and too dumb for anyone over 13.
[on The Master of Disguise (2002)] The Master of Disguise pants and wheezes and hurls itself exhausted across the finish line after barely 65 minutes of movie, and then it follows it with 15 minutes of end credits in an attempt to clock in as a feature film. We get outtakes, deleted scenes, flubbed lines and all the other versions of the Credit Cookie, which was once a cute idea but is getting to be a bore.

The credits go on and on and on. The movie is like a party guest who thinks he is funny and is wrong. The end credits are like the same guest taking too long to leave. At one point they at last mercifully seemed to be over, and the projectionist even closed the curtains, but no: There was Dana Carvey, still visible against the red velvet, asking us what we were still doing in the theater. That is a dangerous question to ask after a movie like "The Master of Disguise." The movie is a desperate miscalculation. It gives poor Dana Carvey nothing to do that is really funny, and then expects us to laugh because he acts so goofy all the time. But acting funny is not funny. Acting in a situation that's funny-now that's funny.
[on Battlefield Earth (2000)] Battlefield Earth is like taking a bus trip with someone who has needed a bath for a long time. It's not merely bad; it's unpleasant in a hostile way. Some movies run off the rails. This one is like the train crash in The Fugitive (1993). I watched it in mounting gloom, realizing I was witnessing something historic, a film that for decades to come will be the punch line of jokes about bad movies.
[on North (1994)] It's the movie that makes me cringe even when I'm sitting here just thinking about it.
[on Mad Dog Time (1996)] Mad Dog Time is the first movie I have seen that does not improve on the sight of a blank screen viewed for the same length of time. Oh, I've seen bad movies before. But they usually made me care about how bad they were. Watching Mad Dog Time is like waiting for the bus in a city where you're not sure they have a bus line...Mad Dog Time should be cut into free ukulele picks for the poor.
[on Police Academy (1984)] It's really something. It's so bad, maybe you should pool your money and draw straws and send one of the guys off to rent it so that in the future, whenever you think you're sitting through a bad comedy, he could shake his head, and chuckle tolerantly, and explain that you don't know what bad is.
[on The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)] The characters in this movie should be arrested for loitering with intent to moan. Never have teenagers been in greater need of a jump-start. Granted some of them are more than 100 years old, but still: their charisma is by Madame Tussaud...sitting through this [movie] is like driving a tractor in low gear though a sullen sea of Brylcreem.
[on The Player (1992)] This is what Bonfire of the Vanities should have been!
[on Leap Year (2010)] Let's start off on the same page. A sweet but over-organized young woman named Anna...has been dating a high-powered heart surgeon named Jeremy...for four years. He's pleasant, attentive, presentable and shares her goal of buying a condo in the best building in Boston. He does nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong. For veteran filmgoers, he has one fatal flaw: He has a healthy head of hair, and every strand is perfectly in place. No modern movie hero can have his hair combed.
[on Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)] If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination.
[on Tooth Fairy (2010)] In the pantheon of such legends as Santa Claus and the Bogeyman, the Tooth Fairy ranks down in the minor leagues... There is a scene in 'Tooth Fairy' when the hero is screamed at by his girlfriend for even *beginning* to suggest to her 6-year-old that the tooth fairy doesn't exist, but surely this is a trauma a child can survive. Don't kids simply humor their parents to get the dollar?
[on Valentine's Day (2010)' 'Valentine's Day' is being marketed as a Date Movie. I think it's more of a First-Date Movie. If your date likes it, do *not* date that person again. And if you like it, there may not be a second date.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) is third among the top five favorites for Best Picture. It may well win. I can't imagine many people wanting to see the movie twice. There is another film this year that isn't in the "top five" or listed among the front-runners at all, and it's a profound consideration of the process of living and aging. That's Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York (2008). It will be viewed and valued decades from now. You mark my words.
Now that I no longer do the red carpet, I can say with pride I never once asked anyone, 'What are you wearing?'
I have the sense that younger Hollywood is losing the instinctive feeling for story and quality that generations of executives possessed. It's all about the marketing.
I'm not opposed to 3-D as an option. I'm opposed to it as a way of life for Hollywood, where it seems to be skewing major studio output away from the kinds of films we think of as Oscar-worthy.
Doing research on the Web is like using a library assembled piecemeal by pack rats and vandalized nightly.
[on The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009)] 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.
[on The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)] Of Taylor Lautner's musculature, and particularly his abs, much has been written. Yes, he has a great build, but I remind you that an abdominal six-pack must be five seconds' work for a shape-shifter. More impressive is the ability of both Edward and Jacob to regard Bella with penetrating gazes from 'neath really dope eyebrows. When my eyebrows get like Edward's, the barber trims them and never even asks me first.
[on David Gordon Green] He is not a director of plots so much as a director of tones, emotions and moments of truth, and there's a sense of gathering fate even in the lighter scenes. His films remind me of Days of Heaven (1978) by Terrence Malick, in the way they are told as memories, as if all of this happened and is over with and cannot be changed; you watch a Green film not to see what will happen, but to see what did happen.
[on 12 Angry Men (1957)]: The movie plays like a textbook for directors interested in how lens choices affect mood. By gradually lowering his camera, Lumet illustrates another principle of composition: A higher camera tends to dominate, a lower camera tends to be dominated. As the film begins, we look down on the characters, and the angle suggests they can be comprehended and mastered. By the end, they loom over us, and we feel overwhelmed by the force of their passion.
[on Sidney Lumet]: If Lumet is not among the most famous of American directors, that is only because he ranges so widely he cannot be categorized. Few filmmakers have been so consistently respectful of the audience's intelligence.
[on Bloodline (1979)]: It has been reported that author Sidney Sheldon was paid $2 million for the screen rights to his novel. I hope he is laughing all the way to his remedial writing class.
[on Battle Los Angeles (2011)]: Young men: If you attend this crap with friends who admire it, tactfully inform them they are idiots. Young women: If your date likes this movie, tell him you've been thinking it over, and you think you should consider spending some time apart.
[on The Green Hornet (2011)] There is a role in the film for Cameron Diaz but nothing for her to do. She functions primarily to allow the camera to cut to her from time to time, which is pleasant but unsatisfying. Diaz has a famously wonderful smile, and curiously in her first shot in the film, she smiles for no reason at all, maybe just to enter the smile on the record. The director of this half-cooked mess is Michel Gondry, whose Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) is as good as this one is bad. Casting about for something to praise, I recalled that I heard a strange and unique sound for the first time, a high-pitched whooshing scream, but I don't think Gondry can claim it, because it came from the hand dryers in the nearby men's room.
A common misconception is that Gene and I never agree. The truth is more often than not we do agree. Some films are obviously good or obviously bad. That just leaves the ones in the middle for Gene to be wrong about.
[on A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)] Forget about the plot, the actors and the director. What you require to make a new "Nightmare on Elm Street" are these three off-the-shelf sound effects: 1. A sudden, loud clanging noise mixed with a musical chord. 2. Snicker-snack sounds, which Freddy Krueger's steel finger claws make every time they are seen. 3. A voice deepener, to drop Freddy's speaking voice to an ominous level. On top of that, you need your sudden cuts, your lighting from below, your thump-thump-thumps and of course a dog that barks at something unseen in the night, so that your teenage heroine can go out on the lawn in bare feet and flimsy PJs and call "Rufus! Rufus! Here, boy!"... Are we supposed to be scared? Is the sudden clanging chord supposed to evoke a fearful Pavlovian response? For Rufus, maybe, but not for me.
[on Thor (2011)]: Thor is a failure as a movie, but a success as marketing, an illustration of the ancient carnival tactic of telling the rubes anything to get them into the tent. "You won't believe what these girls take off!", a carny barker promised me and my horny pals one steamy night at the Champaign County Fair. He was close. We didn't believe what they left on.
It's said that Christopher Nolan spent ten years writing his screenplay for Inception (2010). That must have involved prodigious concentration, like playing blindfold chess while walking a tight-wire.
[on The Social Network (2010)] David Fincher's film has the rare quality of being not only as smart as its brilliant hero, but in the same way. It is cocksure, impatient, cold, exciting and instinctively perceptive.
From such harrowing beginnings, it's rather awesome what an entertaining film Danny Boyle has made with 127 Hours (2010).
If the British monarchy is good for nothing else, it's superb at producing the subjects of films.
Rango (2011) is some kind of a miracle: An animated comedy for smart moviegoers, wonderfully made, great to look at, wickedly satirical, and (gasp!) filmed in glorious 2-D.
[on Final Destination 5 (2011)] The actors in a movie like this are essentially doing product placement. By getting their names and faces out there in a splatter movie, they can perhaps catch the eye of a casting agent and get a shot at a decent film. They have studied their craft. They have struggled and dreamed. They have attended countless auditions. Now at last they have a role in a major Hollywood release, and can call home: "Mom! I get impaled by the mast of a sailboat after I fall off a bridge!".
[on The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (2011)] The film is reprehensible, dismaying, ugly, artless and an affront to any notion, however remote, of human decency.
Conan the Barbarian (2011) involves a clash of civilizations whose vocabularies are limited to screams, oaths, grunts, howls, ejaculations, exclamations, vulgarities, screeches, wails, bellows, yelps and woofs. I'd love to get my hands on the paycheck for subtitling this movie. The plot involves - oh, never mind. You have your Barbarians, and they kill one another in an unending series of battle scenes. I guess Conan is the good guy, but what difference does it make?
Oh, I know a lot of Death at a Funeral (2010) is in very bad taste. That's when I laughed the most. I don't laugh at movies where the characters are deliberately being vulgar. But when they desperately don't want to be--now that's funny. Consider the scene when Uncle Russell eats too much nut cake and is seized by diarrhea. And Norman wrestles him off his wheelchair and onto the potty, and gets his hand stuck underneath. Reader, I laughed. I'm not saying I'm proud of myself. That's not the way I was raised. But I laughed.
In New Year's Eve (2011), we look out over the surging throng of ecstatic celebrants [in Times Square], and the sea of humanity is blue. They're all wearing freebie hats from Nivea skin creme. No hats for the Knicks, Budweiser or I Heart New York. All Nivea skin creme. I've heard of product placement, but this is carpet bombing.
It takes The Double (2011) less than half an hour to reveal who the double is. That's if you're lucky enough to avoid the movie's trailer, which just comes right out and tells you.
I can buy imperfections if they occur to me after the movie is over. The problem would be if they occurred to me while I was watching it.
[on The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (2011)] Laurence R. Harvey is described as "a British performance artist." I raced off to the always helpful Google and discovered that his artistic career to date hasn't generated a single link. It may be that his performance art consists entirely of walking down the street as himself. Gene Siskel liked to amuse himself by people-watching and thinking, "When that person looked in the mirror before leaving the house, he thought he looked great."
[on Four Lovers (2010)] You know there's something wrong with a sex movie when the good parts are the dialogue.
[on Death Wish II (1982)] In my movie rating system, the most a movie can get is four stars (My Dinner with Andre (1981)) and the least is ordinarily half a star (even The Beast Within (1982) got a whole star). I award "no stars" only to movies that are artistically inept and morally repugnant.
[on Three Colors: Red (1994)] This the kind of film that makes you feel intensely alive while you're watching it, and sends you out into the streets afterwards eager to talk deeply and urgently, to the person you are with.
[on Dirty Love (2005)] Jenny McCarthy has a technologically splendid bosom that should, in my opinion, be put to a better use than being vomited upon.
[on Goodbye Lover (1998)] There is a part of me that knows this movie is very, very bad. And another part of me that takes a guilty pleasure in it. Too bad I saw it at a critics' screening, where professional courtesy requires a certain decorum. This is the kind of movie that might be materially improved by frequent hoots of derision.
All I want for Christmas is to never see All I Want for Christmas (1991) again.
[on The Babymakers (2012)] Although I am aware sperm is a precious bodily fluid, I don't find it an especially funny one, and when a character spills half of the deposits in a sperm bank and then slips around on the floor like a clown on ice, I'm not laughing. I'm thinking, "yuck!" Millions of little soldiers being massacred for a laugh.
Brave (2012) has an uplifting message about improving communication between mothers and daughters, although transforming your mom into a bear is a rather extreme first step.
To Rome with Love (2012) isn't great Woody Allen. Here is a man who has made a feature every year since 1969, give or take a few, and if they cannot all be great Woody, it's churlish to complain if they're only good Woody. His previous film, Midnight in Paris (2011), was magical. A few critics have said unkind things about his age, which strikes me as bad manners. So he's 76. Good for him. Is his timing still skilled? Is he still funny? Aren't we happy to have another picture?
Cinema, for me, has always been something like music composed with photographic images. Others see it more like 'action painting', and we've seen a lot of discussion in recent years about what J. Hoberman and others have called 'post-photographic cinema', in which computers have replaced cameras, and animation has replaced photography, as the primary means of creating images on the screen.
Punisher: War Zone (2008) is one of the best-made bad movies I've seen. It looks great, it hurtles through its paces and is well-acted. The soundtrack is like elevator music if the elevator were in a death plunge. The special effects are state of the art. Its only flaw is that it's disgusting.
[on Humpday (2009)] Women, I suspect, are more likely than men to view sex from the over-all perspective of what we may call their lives. In a country like Saudi Arabia, whose citizens express discomfort about men and women even attending movies together, I have little doubt which gender is more concerned.
...the star rating system is relative, not absolute. When you ask a friend if Hellboy (2004) is any good, you're not asking if it's any good compared to Mystic River (2003), you're asking if it's any good compared to The Punisher (2004) And my answer would be, on a scale of one to four, if Superman (1978) is four, then Hellboy is three and The Punisher is two. In the same way, if American Beauty (1999) gets four stars, then [The United States of Leland (2003)] clocks in at about two.
[on The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 (2012)] I have now seen something like 10 hours about these vampires as they progress through immortality, and I'd rather see either version of Nosferatu (1922) that many times. I must admit if you're going to bring the series to a close, Part 2 does it about as well as it can be done. It must be hard for Summit Entertainment to drop the final curtain on a series that has grossed billions, but it bit the bullet, and I imagine fans will be pleased.
[on If Lucy Fell (1996)] I found myself hoping they would not find love, because the only way for a premise this stupid to redeem itself would be, of course, in their deaths.
[on the 85th Academy Award nominees] The field was led with 12 nominations by Steven Spielberg's Lincoln (2012). It's a great film, in my opinion, but in the context of Oscar nominations it also represents the kind of film the Academy loves to nominate: An important drama on a big subject by an industry veteran. The industry spends all year churning out product like last weekend's box office winner [Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)], and then puts on its evening wear and poses as humanitarians.
[on ...E tu vivrai nel terrore! L'aldilà (1981)] The movie is being revived around the country for midnight cult showings. Midnight is not late enough.
[on I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)] After the screening was over and the lights went up, I observed a couple of my colleagues in deep and earnest conversation, trying to resolve twists in the plot. They were applying more thought to the movie than the makers did. A critic's mind is a terrible thing to waste.
[on Amour (2012)] When I saw Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), I was young and eager and excited to be attending one of the first French art films I'd ever seen. It helped teach me what it was, and who I was. Now I see that the film, its actors and its meaning have all been carried on, and that the firemen are going to come looking for all of us one of these days, sooner or later.
[on Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (1999)] The ability of so many people to live comfortably with the idea of capital punishment is perhaps a clue to how so many Europeans were able to live with the idea of the Holocaust: Once you accept the notion that the state has the right to kill someone and the right to define what is a capital crime, aren't you halfway there?
Swept Away (2002) is a deserted island movie during which I desperately wished the characters had chosen one movie to take along if they were stranded on a deserted island, and were showing it to us instead of this one.
Writing and speaking, Pauline Kael commanded the American idiom. Her paragraphs announced their author. Like George Bernard Shaw, she wrote reviews that will be read for their style, humor and energy long after some of their subjects have been forgotten. Her work pointed up the disconnect between the immediate sensual experience of moviegoing and the abstract theory-mongering of many film critics. She was there, she sat in the theater, it was happening to her, and here was what she felt about it. Critics aren't supposed to talk during screenings, but I can still hear her Oh! Oh! Oh! during scenes she thought were dreadful. She loved the movies so much that bad ones were a personal affront. And when she loved one, her ecstasy came racing through her prose.
At a time when digital techniques can show us almost anything, The Blair Witch Project (1999) is a reminder that what really scares us is the stuff we can't see. The noise in the dark is almost always scarier than what makes the noise in the dark. Any kid can tell you that. Not that he believes it at the time.
[on Battleship (2012)] One alien weapon is especially fearsome: a large metal ball with spikes, which rolls through things and flattens them. Were less sophisticated versions of this used in medieval times, maybe made of flaming tar balls?
[on Holy Motors (2012)] Here is a film that is exasperating, frustrating, anarchic and in a constant state of renewal. It's not tame. Some audience members are going to grow very restless. My notion is, few will be bored.
Dear God (1996) is the kind of movie where you walk out repeating the title, but not with a smile.
[on Superstar (1999)] Too bad the Catholic League is so busy attacking good films, like Dogma (1999), that it can't spare the time to picket bad ones. I'm not in favor of protesting films on the basis of theology, but to picket them because they're boring could be an act of mercy.
[on Marie Antoinette (2006)] Every criticism I have read of this film would alter is fragile magic and reduce its romantic and tragic poignancy to the level of an instructional film.
[on Armageddon (1998)] No matter what they're charging to get in, it's worth more to get out.
[on Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy (1996)] I did not laugh once. I thought this movie was awful, dreadful, terrible, stupid, idiotic, unfunny, waver, forced, painful, bad.
[on Stargate (1994)] The movie Ed Wood (1994) about the worst director of all time, was made to prepare us for Stargate.
In the previous century the movie theater was often, in smaller towns and cities, the only grand architectural statement, save perhaps for a church or courthouse. They unashamedly provided a proscenium for our dreams.
[on The Legend of Zorro (2005)] He's a bright kid, but not bright enough to recognize that Zorro is his own father. To be sure, Zorro wears a mask, but let me pose a hypothetical exercise for my readers. Imagine your own father. That's it. Now place him in a typical setting: Pushing back from the dinner table, cutting off some jerk in an intersection, or scratching his dandruff. Now imagine your dad wearing black leather pants, a black linen shirt, a black cloak, a flat black hat, and a black mask that covers his eyes...Still your dad, right? You can almost hear your mom: "Now don't you go getting any ideas about that whip."
[on The Scarlet Letter (1995)] Hester's comely slave girl, Mituba, prepares her bath, and then Hester slowly luxuriates in it by candlelight, while dreaming of Arthur. It is hard to see for sure, but I think she may be indulging in the practice that the nuns called "interfering with herself". Meanwhile, through a convenient peephole, Mituba watches lustfully, for no other purpose than to provide the additional thrill of one attractive woman observing another one naked. Will the sin that dare not speak its name make an appearance in Massachusetts Bay? Alas, no.
[on Fight Club (1999)] Is Tyler Durden in fact a leader of men with a useful philosophy? "It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything," he says, sounding like a man who tripped over the Nietzsche display on his way to the coffee bar in Borders. Fight Club itself does not advocate Durden's philosophy. It is a warning against it, I guess; one critic I like says it makes "a telling point about the bestial nature of man and what can happen when the numbing effects of day-to-day drudgery cause people to go a little crazy." I think it's the numbing effects of movies like this that cause people to go a little crazy. Although sophisticates will be able to rationalize the movie as an argument against the the behavior it shows, my guess is that audience will like the behavior but not the argument. Certainly they'll buy tickets because they can see Pitt and Norton pounding on each other; a lot more people will leave this movie and get into fights than will leave it discussing Tyler Durden's moral philosophy.
[on Frank Capra] Hollywood's poet of the common man.
[the Black & White It's a Wonderful Life (1946) vs the colour version] If I were a local program director with taste and a love of movies, I would find out when my competitor was going to air his colorized version, and counter-program with the original black-and-white movie, patting myself on the back for a public service.
Some movies, even good ones, should only be seen once. When we know how they turn out, they've surrendered their mystery and appeal. Other movies can be viewed an indefinite number of times. Like great music, they improve with familiarity.
[on Frank Capra's postwar career] Later films as State of the Union (1948) and Pocketful of Miracles (1961) have the Capra touch but not the magic.
"This sucks on so many levels." - Dialogue from Jason X (2001) [;] Rare for a movie to so frankly describe itself. "Jason X" sucks on the levels of storytelling, character development, suspense, special effects, originality, punctuation, neatness and aptness of thought.
[on Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)] "Kirsty!" we hear. And "Tiffany!" And "Kirsty!!!" and "Tiffany!!!" And "Kirstiyyyyyyy!!!!!" And "Tiffanyyyyyyy!!!!!" I'm afraid this is another one of those movies that violates the First Rule of Repetition of Names, which states that when the same names are repeated in a movie more than four times a minute for more than three minutes in a row, the audience breaks out into sarcastic laughter, and some of the ruder members are likely to start shouting "Kirsty!" and "Tiffany!" at the screen.
[on Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989)] To know me is to love me. This cliche is popular for a reason, because most of us, I imagine, believe deep in our hearts that if anyone truly got to know us, they'd truly get to love us - or at least know why we're the way we are. The problem in life, maybe the central problem, is that so few people ever seem to have sufficient curiosity to do the job on us that we know we deserve.
Film criticism is important because films are important. If films are not important, the criticism wouldn't matter so much. Films are important because they are the art form of the 20th century. They are the most serious of the mass arts, because even theatre is not a mass art. They affect the way people think and feel and behave and they can be both a good influence on society and a negative influence. To the degree that they glorify mindlessness and short attention spans, I think they're bad; to the degree that they encourage empathy with people not like ourselves and encourage us to think about life and issues, they can be good. They can also of course simply be purely entertaining, and there's nothing wrong with that.
[on Ladder 49 (2004)] I was surprisingly affected by the film. After I left the screening, I walked a while by the river, and sat and thought, and was happy not to have anything that had to be done right away.
[on Mr. Magoo (1997)] There is not a laugh in it. Not one. I counted.
A Midwinter's Tale (1995) is the kind of movie that will probably appeal best to those with a background in the theater and Shakespeare. It asks, but never really answers, the question of why intelligent adults would devote their lives to such an ill-paying, frustrating, disappointing profession. Of course a great many other intelligent adults devote their lives to professions that are equally frustrating and disappointing, and, while they may pay better, are boring, and never have opening nights.
[on The Anniversary Party (2001)] The movie was shot with a digital camera. Yes, you can tell. (Critics who say it looks as good as film are like friends who claim you don't look a day older.)
'Kindness' covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.
I think you have to see Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York (2008) twice. I watched it the first time and knew it was a great film and that I had not mastered it. The second time because I needed to. The third time because I will want to. It will open to confused audiences and live indefinitely.
[on meeting 50% of The Sex Pistols with Russ Meyer] We had meetings with both Vicious and Rotten. I don't remember ever meeting the other two Sex Pistols, Paul Cook and Steve Jones. McLaren implied that their roles in the band were limited to actually performing the music, since Sid and Johnny had their hands full insulting the audience and inspiring eruptions of manic hostility.
Do that which results in the greater good and the lesser evil. I support freedom of choice. My choice is to not support abortion, except in cases of a clear-cut choice between the lives of the mother and child. A child conceived through incest or rape is innocent and deserves the right to be born.
[on Too Beautiful for You (1989)] Somebody was asking the other day what the difference was between French and American films. American films are about plots, I said, and French films are about people. You can usually tell where a plot is heading, but a person, now - a person will fool you.
Every great film should seem new every time you see it.
[on Mandingo (1975)] This is a film I felt soiled by.
[on Patch Adams (1998)] Patch is a character. To himself, he's an irrepressible bundle of joy, a zany live wire who brings laughter into the lives of the sick and dying. To me, he's a pain in the wazoo. If this guy broke into my hospital room and started tap-dancing with bedpans on his feet, I'd call the cops. The lesson of "Patch Adams" is that laughter is the best medicine. I know Norman Cousins cured himself by watching Marx Brothers movies, but to paraphrase Groucho, I enjoy a good cigar, but not when it explodes. I've been lucky enough to discover doctors who never once found it necessary to treat me while wearing a red rubber nose.
[on Gene Siskel] We never fought in personal terms. We never insulted each other. It was always on an intellectual level: who was right, who had the higher moral ground. It was kind of like a theological discussion in which the other person was evil.
[on The Taste of Others (2000)] I know there are people who don't go to foreign films, and I am patient with them, as I would be with a child: With luck they may evolve into more interesting beings.
For a full appreciation of just how much contempt Her Alibi (1989) has for the audience, reflect for a moment on the movie's last scene in which Blackwood and Nina are back in the snug Connecticut farmhouse for a big love scene and a fade out. The people who made this movie apparently actually forgot that they blew the house up a half-hour earlier.
[on Happy Gilmore (1996)] Maybe nobody paid for product placement. "Happy Gilmore" is filled with so many plugs it looks like a product placement sampler in search of a movie. I probably missed a few, but I counted Diet Pepsi, Pepsi, Pepsi Max, Subway sandwich shops, Budweiser (in bottles, cans, and Bud-dispensing helmets), Michelob, Visa cards, Bell Atlantic, AT&T, Sizzler, Wilson, Golf Digest, the ESPN sports network, and Top-Flite golf balls.
The Skulls (2000) is one of the great howlers, a film that bears comparison, yes, with The Greek Tycoon (1978) or even The Scarlet Letter (1995). It's so ludicrous in so many different ways it achieves a kind of forlorn grandeur. It's in a category by itself.
[on Halloween (1978)] It's easy to create violence on the screen, but it's hard to do it well. Carpenter is uncannily skilled, for example, at the use of foregrounds in his compositions, and everyone who likes thrillers knows that foregrounds are crucial: The camera establishes the situation, and then it pans to one side, and something unexpectedly looms up in the foreground. Usually it's a tree or a door or a bush. Not always. And it's interesting how he paints his victims. They're all ordinary, everyday people -- nobody's supposed to be the star and have a big scene and win an Academy Award. The performances are all the more absorbing because of that; the movie's a slice of life that is carefully painted (in drab daylights and impenetrable nighttime's) before its human monster enters the scene
Somebody was asking the other day, do I ever get tired of going to the movies? Naw, I said, I love movies and so some days it's not really a job, it's more of a lucky break. But I wasn't feeling lucky the day I saw Suburban Commando (1991) and you know what? By golly, by the time it was over, I was feeling kind of tired of going to the movies.
[on Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (1996)] I believe Mike Judge would rather die than share a taxi ride to the airport with his characters - that for him, B&B function like Dilbert's co-workers in the Scott Adams universe. They are a target for his anger against the rising tide of stupidity.
Sometimes, it's all about the casting.
The ads for Aliens (1986) claim that this movie will frighten you as few movies have, and, for once, the ads don't lie. The movie is so intense that it creates a problem for me as a reviewer: Do I praise its craftsmanship, or do I tell you it left me feeling wrung out and unhappy? It has been a week since I saw it, so the emotions have faded a little, leaving with me an appreciation of the movie's technical qualities. But when I walked out of the theater, there were knots in my stomach from the film's roller-coaster ride of violence. This is not the kind of movie where it means anything to say you "enjoyed" it.
[on David Lean] It is true Lean was not a rebel. He was one who perfected film language rather than reinventing it. But to go back in the memory to Miss Havisham's wedding cake in Great Expectations (1946) or the look of sorrow on Trevor Howard's face in Brief Encounter (1945), to the glory of Lawrence in the desert and the unflappable transplanted Englishness of Dame Peggy Ashcroft in A Passage to India (1984) is to remember a director whose visual imagination was towering, and who made the movies big just when the industry was trying to make them little.
Scrooged (1988) is one of the most disquieting, unsettling films to come along in quite some time. It was obviously intended as a comedy, but there is little comic about it, and indeed the movie's overriding emotions seem to be pain and anger. This entire production seems to be in dire need of visits from the ghosts of Christmas.
[reviewing Avalon (1990)] Europeans are vertically conformist; they want to do things as their ancestors did. Americans are horizontally conformist; we want to do things as our neighbors do. This process breaks down the richness of ethnic heritage and creates a bland Middle American who, in a way, is from nowhere--who was invented in TV commercials.
[on Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)] I've owned that movie since it came out on laser disc and still haven't viewed it, because time and again I was told it was unbelievably revolting. Not "horror movie revolting" but really revolting.
[on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)] Do yourself a favor. There are a lot of good movies playing right now that can make you feel a little happier, smarter, sexier, funnier, more excited - or more scared, if that's what you want. This is not one of them. Don't let it kill 98 minutes of your life.
[on The Big Easy (1986)] Forget it's a thriller. See it because you want to meet these people.

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