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The Reeler Blog

Ebert Gets Gothamed

(Photo: Chicago Sun-Times)

By S.T. VanAirsdale

For some unknown reason the good people at IFP didn't invite me back to the Gotham Awards this year, so don't look for any coverage here on Wednesday. Nevertheless, I can't help but direct you to a splendid pair of pieces -- both at Movie City News -- paying tribute to Roger Ebert, whom the Gothams will honor tonight with a special award recognizing his four decades of film criticism. First, a word with Ebert himself, who answered 10 questions via e-mail in advance of tonight's gala. Among them is a nice plug for one of my own favorite NYC locals:

You have always been a big supporter of emerging filmmakers. Whose work have you seen lately that is turning you on?

Ramin Bahrani (Man Push Cart) had a film at Toronto titled Chop Shop that amazed me with its power. comparable to Pixote. Eric Byler is someone to keep an eye on after Americanese. Jason Reitman's Juno you want to hug. ...

Is the state of film criticism as bad or as threatened as some would say?


There are better and worse critics. Always have been. The difference is the internet. Now we all swim in the same sea. Look at the success of Berardinelli or JoBlo, or the Salon and Slate critics. All generated not by marketing but by ability. Look at Jim Emerson. Look at David Bordwell, brilliant academic, brilliant blogger. Look at you, and the other critics at your site -- although was Ray Pride (who I admire) frothing at the mouth when he reviewed Delirious? What DID get into him?

For the record, Pride was dead-on accurate about Delirious, but I digress. Check out Jeff Lipsky's open letter to Ebert, published this afternoon at The Hot Blog -- too long to effectively pullquote or paraphrase, but which crystallizes Ebert's class and influence about as well as anything you'll hear tonight:

[My Dinner With Andre] opened in New York to well under $10,000 (at, if I recall correctly, about a $6 ticket price) and after week two [New Yorker Films boss] Dan Talbot was ready to cry uncle. ... [Q]uite unexpectedly, My Dinner With Andre was reviewed by Roger and Gene, in mid-October. Essentially, they both called it the Best Picture of the Year, not the best independent film, the Best Picture, bar none. They sung the same refrain a week or two later, and made it official on their 10 Best episode in late December. The morning after they first reviewed the film, and without the benefit of a sou’s worth of additional advertising, the grosses, nationwide, increased by 300% (moving up from a $5,670 week at the now defunct Gateway in San Francisco to $13,359 a week later, from a $8,409 week at the now-defunct Sandburg in Chicago to $18,073). The film ran in New York at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas for 54 weeks.

Oh -- and he was the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize for criticism. You don't need me to tell you they don't make them like Roger Ebert any more, and he certainly doesn't need another accolade from another anonymous blogger. But I sincerely tip my cap and humbly thank the man, even if I have to do it from the parking lot. It's the least he deserves.

Posted at November 27, 2007 4:33 PM

Comments (1)

That Ebert anecdote in regard to the Malle film is priceless. It's hard to imagine a critic, any critic, even Ebert himself, having that kind of impact anymore these days. I'm just not sure people care so much anymore, which is a shame.

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