- Paperback: 232 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic (April 19, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1441192212
- ISBN-13: 978-1441192219
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,886,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Rule of Thumb: Ebert at the Movies 0th Edition
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Cheerfulness and generosity-even overgenerosity-aren't qualities we often associate with good film critics, but they characterize the long and productive career of Roger Ebert, and they also mark Todd Rendleman's ardent reading of his work. Rendleman pays Ebert the biggest compliment a moviegoer can give a critic: he can't get enough of him-and he wants to keep arguing with him, long after everybody else has gone to bed.
--Craig Seligman, author of Sontag and Kael: Opposites Attract Me
Todd Rendleman's is the first book to survey Roger Ebert's vast impact on how movies are made and watched in America. Flashing backward and forward through Ebert's life and writings, Rendleman traces how Ebert's Midwestern ethos positioned him between Hollywood flackery and the New York intelligentsia, giving him a distinctively personal voice. In the process Rendleman dramatizes how Ebert responded to trends in American media culture--the challenges of daily reviewing, the pressures of celebrity, and not least, the dominating role of Pauline Kael. The result is an energetic, highly personal tribute to our most versatile film critic.
--David Bordwell, Jacques Ledoux Professor of Film Studies, Emeritus in the Department of Communication Arts, Unviersity of Wisconsin-Madison
Todd Rendleman's book on Roger Ebert is a remarkable achievement—biography, cultural history, astute appreciation and analysis of the critic's methods and values, and on top of all that, a lovely read. Occasionally the author's tracing of the logic and references in an Ebert review takes on the narrative excitement and impulsion we encounter in the finest close readings of films. In one chapter, assessing their responses to the same movies, Rendleman's point-by-point comparisons of Ebert's critical persona and tone of mind with those of two other major voices, Pauline Kael and John Simon, yield fascinating working portraits of the strengths and limitations of all three. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the book is its gentle but fervent assertion of a uniquely Illinoisan perspective on life and art, enhanced by the author's uninsistent marking of key moments in his own personal and cinematic itinerary as they sometimes parallel, sometimes intersect with Ebert's. It'
s a journey delightful to join.
—Richard T. Jameson, editor, Movietone News (1971-81) and Film Comment (1990-2000) magazines
Sharp and multi-faceted in its analysis, Rule of Thumb is an honorable appreciation of Roger Ebert as plainspoken, longstanding arbiter of what's good and bad in the movies. Full of earned insights and refreshingly free of jargon, the book's illuminating reading, not least because Rendleman underscores his subject's influence by interweaving personal reminiscences about coming of age in Illinois moviehouses with his fellow Heartlander's rise as film critic and cultural game-changer.
--Kathleen Murphy, Film Critic, MSN Movies
About the Author
Todd Rendleman, Todd Rendleman is Professor of Communication Studies at Seattle Pacific University, where he teaches film art, history, and criticism. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
Top customer reviews
Why is it that Roger Ebert would become the first film critic to ever win the Pulitzer Prize? This book provides more context and clarity to that question than has ever been provided by anyone. And then there is oil and water chemistry between Siskel and Ebert:
"Ebert's velocity as a writer is daunting, but his television presence
made him the most influential critic in the country. He initially balked
at the thought of hosting a program with a rival, only fearing that
someone else might land the opportunity. That instinct served him well,
as Siskel and Ebert's competitiveness was central to their popularity.
Their arguments were eye-popping -- at least as entertaining as many
films they discussed -- and the show's appeal was rooted in the authenticity
of their battles."
If you are contemplating a career as a film critic, or if you want to learn about how the great ones go about learning to communicate in any context - this book is a must-read that will be destined for your personal reference library. Fully referenced and indexed, you will want it for a reference if only for the encouragement it provides even as it opens up the Mount Everest challenge you face.
What I admire most about Rendleman's writing style is that he understands the value of story. Film is story. Knowledge is story. And Rendleman complies by taking the time and trouble to help the reader understand the context of his own viewpoint by weaving in his own story to help us "get" Ebert. The Chicago connection is integral to understanding Ebert - in some ways Rendleman's observations could only come from an Illinois heartland kid raised up by escaping to the movies - guided by the audacious Roger-as-Obi-Wan.
"Ebert's career demonstrates these truths:
He has chased after dreams, experienced great professional success
and not a little personal dissatisfaction, relinquished his ideals of perfect
love and the good life -- there's quite a distance from Farrah Fawcett to
Lillian Gish -- and, in doing so, found greater wisdom. Ebert isn't a critic
who's simply waiting to see if a film measures up, or to compare this
one to that. There's a sense of discovery and hard-won development
in his work that mirrors the way life is lived, and it is his willingness to
discuss that growth -- to use it as a centerpiece of his criticism -- that
sets him apart."
Rule of Thumb is packed with insight into the man, but what else is there? To anyone wanting to speak authoritatively on Hollywood, whether as a critic, filmistà or industry insider - this is your primer. That Roger Ebert nods approvingly in the foreward of Rule of Thumb to its clarity and accuracy, then his characterization of it as "unauthorized biography" sets the tension. We want to know the rest of the story. We all know Ebert suffers no fools. You are going to love finding out what happens in the end.
This book is genuine in its reflection on film's greatest critic spanning the end of an age when it was all about that medium. We need a new Roger Ebert for a new generation of digital media. This book is at once inspiration and challenge. You've got a mountain of excellence to guide you.
P. Scott Cummins
Co-Founder, National Film Festival for Talented Youth