I confess, I don't always agree with Roger Ebert's movie reviews (I loved "Senna" and "The Usual Suspects," he ... didn't), but I almost always love the way he writes them. The acclaimed critic isn't one of those people who just lives in a theater 24-7. He brings his whole life and his entire understanding of human nature, plus a great sense of humor, into his reviews. Sometimes it just takes him a few sentences to completely sum up an entire film or even a trend in moviedom. Often, the movies that made him suffer the most give us the most delightful reviews.
Here are some of his gems.
The Pullet Surprise
My favorite line of his is a classic. Back in 2005, Rob Schneider complained that another reviewer who didn't like "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" wasn't qualified to review it because he didn't have a Pulitzer Prize. In response, Ebert wrote, "Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks."
Where the stars don't shine
"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." —From review of "The Human Centipede"
Tell us how you really feel, Roger
"I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid 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." —From "North" review
"One of the details that "A Christmas Story" gets right is the threat of having your mouth washed out with Lifebuoy soap. Not any soap. Lifebuoy. Never Ivory or Palmolive. Lifebuoy, which apparently contained an ingredient able to nullify bad language. The only other soap ever mentioned for this task was Lava, but that was the nuclear weapon of mouth-washing soaps, so powerful it was used for words we still didn't even know." —From"A Christmas Story" review
A kiss is still a...
"(Rhett Butler) tells Scarlett in a key early scene, 'You need kissing badly. That's what's wrong with you. You should be kissed, and often, and by someone who knows how.' For 'kissed,'' substitute the word you're thinking of." —From "Gone With the Wind" review
Over the rainbow
"...The elements in 'The Wizard of Oz'' powerfully fill a void that exists inside many children. For kids of a certain age, home is everything, the center of the world. But over the rainbow, dimly guessed at, is the wide earth, fascinating and terrifying. There is a deep fundamental fear that events might conspire to transport the child from the safety of home and strand him far away in a strange land. And what would he hope to find there? Why, new friends, to advise and protect him. And Toto, of course, because children have such a strong symbiotic relationship with their pets that they assume they would get lost together." —From "Wizard of Oz" review
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A galaxy far, far away
"It's as goofy as a children's tale, as shallow as an old Saturday afternoon serial, as corny as Kansas in August — and a masterpiece. Those who analyze its philosophy do so, I imagine, with a smile in their minds. May the Force be with them." —From "Star Wars" review
Airsickness bag, please
"Was there no one connected with this project who read the screenplay, considered the story, evaluated the proposed film and vomited?" —From "Last Rites" review
He's a poet
"This is an old idea, beautifully expressed by Wordsworth, who said, 'Heaven lies about us in our infancy.' If I could quote the whole poem instead of completing this review, believe me, we'd all be happier. But I press on." —From "Baby Geniuses" review
Where's that bus?
"Watching 'Mad Dog Time' is like waiting for the bus in a city where you're not sure they have a bus line." —From "Mad Dog Time" review
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Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is TODAY.com's movies editor.
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