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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Roger Ebert Misremembers Stuff For His Review

There is a danger when, in trying to convince readers that a new film in a series is really good, that you'll take the shortcut of badmouthing previous entries, just to support your opinion. Even if you end up contradicting your previous reviews.

This is especially dangerous in the internet era, because the reader can look this stuff up, even when you didn't bother to.

From Roger Ebert's review of Casino Royale: "...Daniel Craig is bloody damned great as Bond..."

From Roger Ebert's review of Quantum Of Solace: "Daniel Craig remains a splendid Bond, one of the best."

From Roger Ebert's initial review of Skyfall: "...with Daniel Craig taking full possession of a role he previously played unconvincingly."

So..."bloody damned great" and "splendid" means "played unconvincingly"??? Maybe it's some kind of professional critics' code...or maybe he changed his mind about Daniel Craig's earlier performances.

Or maybe, just maybe, Ebert couldn't think of a better way to praise Craig's current performance than contradict himself.

Or perhaps he didn't remember what he actually thought of the earlier movies, and couldn't be bothered to look it up. It wouldn't be the first time a critic misremembered Bond's past in order to make a point...

I tweeted Roger Ebert, questioning him about this. I received no reply (nor did I expect one...dude must get 1,000 silly questions per day). But subsequently, he rewrote the online review to read: "...with Daniel Craig taking full possession of a role he earlier played well in "Casino Royale," not so well in "Quantum" -- although it may not have been entirely his fault. Or is it just that he's growing on me?"

So, let's be fair: he goofed, but he corrected it (although "a splendid Bond, one of the best" is still pretty inconsistent with "[played] not so well in Quantum")

Still, that is not the only example of his forgetfulness of previous films.

More from the Skyfall review: "The movie's innovations begin in its first shots, which abandon the familiar stalking silhouettes in the iris lens, and hit the ground running."

Well, it's an "innovation" only if you don't count the last two movies, which also did the same thing.

And it's not an "iris lens," it's a gun barrel, Roger--unless you think 007 has been shooting photographers for 50 years...

Yes, it's a very positive review. And he's a heck of a fine writer. But it would be a lot easier to take Mr. Ebert's film criticism seriously if he actually paid attention.


  1. Skyfall is really good, man! Not CR good, but leaps and bounds above QoS.

  2. It's instances like this that make me feel like critics are always just paid off by the studios to praise something, but their real feelings will eventually slip out. (In this case, Ebert didn't like Craig as Bond, but went along with the crowd until Craig maybe wins him over with Skyfall.)

    I kind of feel like critics aren't entirely honest about how they feel about Craig, period. There was so much backlash against his casting that it always seemed to me like critics were predetermined to LOVE Craig in Casino Royale, no matter what, to distance themselves from those internet whiners who were carrying on about his casting.

  3. Let's be fair, Taro--I do not believe Roger Ebert was deceiving us with his earlier review. The guy sees several hundred movies a year, it's been a long time since he's seen Craig as Bond, and perhaps he allowed bitter memories of QoS to color his memories. I'll attribute the cock-up to poor memory and carelessness, not some scheme.

  4. This shows perfectly why I cannot really be bothered with "professional reviewers" anymore! They see way too many movies, that they have to review immediately (no time to think things over, let things sink in); it's their job, they get paid for it, they cannot really choose what to see and what not to see; there is peer pressure (to not look bad in the eyes of colleague reviewers) and they have a name and reputation to defend; etc. No, give me websites like this any day! The wisdom of passionate "amateur" reviewers.

  5. Who cares about Ebert's review? Where's snell's review?

  6. I believe that the "Ebert" on his website was a host of reviewers employed by him. His name has become a brand which is further supported by the fact that with his death in 2013; his website still posts reviews under his name!