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The Great Movies Paperback – November 11, 2003
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If Pauline Kael popularized movie love, Roger Ebert is the eloquent Valentino of cinephiles. This invaluable volume gathers 100 of the Pulitzer winner's mini-essays composed since 1997, revised and updated, to form a love letter that could only spring from decades of devotion. A feat of superlative analysis, historical reflection, personal diary, and journalistic odyssey, The Great Movies combines an accessible style with an academics precision. Accompanied by photos perfectly chosen by Museum of Modern Art film stills archivist Mary Corliss, the 100 films are irrefutably worthy of inclusion, allowing room for debate (John Fords My Darling Clementine is in, The Searchers is not--arguably a wise decision) while placing each film into its own undeniable context of superiority. Admirably, Ebert recognizes that no critic writes in a vacuum; he dedicates the book to eight master critics hailed as teachers, quotes many of his contemporaries, and carries on the debate with Kaels lingering spirit (Ebert counters her on Body Heat, praises her on Nashville). His appreciation of E.T. is written as a letter to beloved children in his life, and the entire book breathes with an awareness of legacy--the cinemas and Eberts own--that underlies the sobering theme of his introduction. We need these movies (and this book) to remind us that movies can be so much better than they typically are. --Jeff Shannon --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Culled from essays famed film critic Ebert has been writing biweekly for the last two years, the 100 pieces here tell us what's so great about Casablanca, The Seventh Seal, The Wizard of Oz, and more.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Roger Ebert first became a household name when he teamed up with fellow Chicago film critic Gene Siskel, and the two hosted the weekly syndicated show “Siskel and Ebert”. On the show, they would review three or four movies per week and gave each movie a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”. The show was so successful that there were many copycat shows that surfaced during the 80s and 90s, but Siskel and Ebert were the originals, and the best. Nothing was better advertising for a new movie that could bolster the moniker “Two Thumbs Up!” as part of its advertising.
As time went on, the astute learned that being a film critic wasn’t necessary a job that “anyone could do”. In the late 80s, Roger Ebert started releasing annual books of his reviews, and one learned that the man was very insightful when it came to distinguishing great works of art from cookie-cutter exploitation. Then, the internet came along, and one could basically read every Roger Ebert review ever printed by going to his website. His insights and commentary were indispensable to all and he quickly became the most well-known film critic. I was one who, every time I would watch a movie, jump on to his website and read about what he had to say about the film that I had just watched. Most of the time I agreed with him, and he always had the ability to look much deeper and find things and see things that I could not.
That seems to be what prompted him to do his “Great Movies” series. Unlike what many people might think, this book (and the two others that followed) aren’t actually reviews of these movies, but rather essays where Ebert goes a bit further and explains in more depth why these movies are, in fact, great. It should be pointed out that when Ebert actually reviewed a movie, he tried very hard not to include spoilers. When he writes these essays, however, he assumes that his audience has already viewed the films, or if they haven’t, would rather study such works and not really care that he often, gives away much of the plot.
This book of movies covers a lot of ground, and I’m sure Ebert had to be a bit selective when choosing what films to feature. Most of the obvious ones are here (Star Wars, Citizen Cane, Gone with the Wind), but he also includes some very bizarre choices that 99% of movie goers not only haven’t seen, not only haven’t heard of, but probably couldn’t view such a film because of its limited availability. A lot of old, silent, foreign, and/or documentaries are featured here as well the more familiar. Again, though, this really isn’t a drawback. I imagine someone who seriously loves films would take a significant amount of time to attempt to track down all of the works that are featured here and purchase them to study for themselves. Fortunately, things such as the internet makes such an arduous task a bit more manageable.
I really can’t think of anyone better than Roger Ebert to produce such a work as this, yet I must confess that the man’s devotion to the cinema could be rather frightening at times. As I read this book, I often thought “Did this man ever do anything in his life other than watch movies?” He would state things such as “I manage to go back and watch this film a couple of times per year”, or “I often study this movie with a film class, and we do a shot by shot analysis.” Sheesh. I really can’t imagine anyone devoting that much time to anything, let alone watching movies, but this was what made the man so respected in the industry.
As I mentioned, if one is a bit lazy, one doesn’t really need to purchase this book, as he includes his “great movies” series on his internet site. Since many people can now access the internet via a tablet or a Kindle, one could definitely take such an advantage. It was sort of nice, however, to have all of these narratives in one place, which was why I chose to purchase it (and the fact that Amazon was having a sale).
I’m sure I’ll not be the first person that will say this as I conclude this review, and it does sound a bit hokey, but here it goes: This book is a definite Thumbs Up. Thumbs way Up.
More than a few of these films are simply, boring things he loves and he couldn't convince me are tolerable.
However, what he says about the majority of these films is wonderful.
His insight about the parallel between the protagonists and story of "The Searchers" and "Taxi Driver" is brilliant and, as far as I know, original. His chapter about watching "E.T" with two grandchildren is moving and illuminating.
His appreciation of the truly great films is so visible that one can forgive him praising Bunuel and other purveyors of emptiness.
I went to college with Roger, and he was a genius and a caring friend
and mentor. There is no more serious, knowledgeable or lover of movies
than my late mentor and acquaintance Roger Ebert. He will never be
replaced. The ultimate friend of movie makers and lover of their master works.
This book IS Roger's memorial, in his own words. God bless Roger and his
brothers and sisters of the University of Illinois.
I particularly thought his responses to The Third Man were quite wonderful and brilliant. Worth it if you care deeply about all these films (and he covers many great ones) --and if it is on sale.