Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Thumbs Up

My favorite movie reviewer, Roger Ebert, recently published a notice on his website that he has begun his recovery from cancer of the salivary gland with only a final surgery remaining.

You'll notice from the photograph that the surgeries have disfigured the acclaimed critic's face, but as he mentions in his webpage update: "We spend too much time hiding illness."

When my father used to manage a Barnes and Noble bookstore, I used to visit him during his overnight inventory sessions and more often than not, I would spend those nights with one of Ebert's many review compliations open next to me (he's reviewed more than 5,500 movies). I loved reading his thoughts and opinions on film; it didn't matter if I recognized the film he was reviewing or not. His reviews gave me not only an appreciation of the film being discussed but of a clear, simple kind of criticism that is all too often ignored (I'm looking in your direction, Pitchfork).

In short, Ebert taught me that movies should do more than entertain, and encouraged me to analyze them as an art form. I'm grateful for that lesson.

For all his critical skill, Ebert never takes himself or his craft too seriously; I cite as evidence his review of Basic Instinct 2:

"Basic Instinct 2 is not good in any rational or defensible way, but not bad in irrational and indefensible ways. ...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?

"...I grinned at that absurd phallic skyscraper that really does exist in London. Of Sharon Stone, what can I say except that there is within most men a private place that responds to an aggressive sexual challenge, especially when it's delivered like a lurid torch song, and Stone plays those notes like she worked out her own fingering. ...My 1-1/2-star rating is like a cold shower, designed to take my mind away from giving it four stars."

You should read his update yourself, but in case you don't, you should know that he's able to get around on his own and should make a slow, if not full, recovery. Regarding the attraction his physical condition might garner, Roger says in his website update:
"I was told photos of me in this condition would attract the gossip papers. So what? I have been very sick, am getting better and this is how it looks. I still have my brain and my typing fingers."
And the world is a sight better for it.


ñamaku said...

Ah, Basic Instinct 2. One of the many incredible movie options on our return home.

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