Roger Ebert

How to Be a Critic

Roger Ebert

At the risk of greatly oversimplifying matters, if you want to be a critic, you have two options: to proceed either in good faith or in bad. Both approaches have their limitations.


Behind the Scenes / 19 Comments
April 8th, 2013 / 8:01 am

How Many Movies Have You Seen?

Over the past 15 years, I’ve kept track of every movie I’ve watched. What started as a simple task has grown increasingly complicated over time, partly due to ways in which movies have changed, but mainly due to how my thoughts about movies have changed. Still, I’ve kept up the habit, first in a composition tablet (now lost), then a sprawling Excel file (a glimpse of which is above—click through or click here for a larger image). Over time, my list of titles has grown to include more relevant information: the date, location, director, run time, year, whom I saw it with, random thoughts I had.

After 15 years, I’ve seen 1925 features. (I haven’t counted the shorts, or any movies I’ve half-seen—and my list doesn’t take into consideration most of the questions I raised in my last post, “How Many Movies Are There?“, as to what constitutes a feature.) That doesn’t sound like too many, not after fifteen years of avid cinephilia. But to put it in some perspective, that’s roughly 128 feature films/year, or about one every three days. Again, this doesn’t include shorts, or TV episodes, or rewatching any of those films—it’s just counts the total of unique feature films. (I used to watch a lot of experimental shorts that aren’t included here, and I’ve taught film classes, which means I’ve seen lots of films numerous times.) (It also doesn’t take into consideration the fact that I’m a writer first and foremost, a cinéaste second.)

We found last week that there have been at least 268,246 features made. (Since then, the IMDb’s count has grown to 268,601.) So I’ve seen little more than .7% of them—and remember, I think that IMDb count far too low. I’ve seen a drop in a drop in a bucket!

But how many movies does anyone ever see? How does my viewing tally compare to, say, a critic like Roger Ebert’s?


Random / 30 Comments
January 16th, 2012 / 10:56 am

Let Us All Stop What We’re Doing for a Minute to Recognize the Awesomeness of Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert has apparently been blogging for the Chicago Sun-Times. Who knew–or cared? I would have said “not me.” But then a friend forwarded me this post of Ebert’s about losing the ability–over the course of his battle with cancer–to eat and speak. “Nil by Mouth” is an incredible piece of writing. Ebert begins by detailing his situation, but the piece quickly becomes a meditation on memory, experience, repetition and loss. It’s an astonishing and impressive piece of writing. Will I go so far as to call it a Proustian reverie? Why the heck not?

I dreamed. I was reading Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree, and there’s a passage where the hero, lazing on his river boat on a hot summer day, pulls up a string from the water with a bottle of orange soda attached to it and drinks. I tasted that pop so clearly I can taste it today. Later he’s served a beer in a frosted mug. I don’t drink beer, but the frosted mug evoked for me a long-buried memory of my father and I driving in his old Plymouth to the A&W Root Beer stand (gravel driveways, carhop service, window trays) and his voice saying “…and a five-cent beer for the boy.” The smoke from his Lucky Strike in the car. The heavy summer heat.For nights I would wake up already focused on that small but heavy glass mug with the ice sliding from it, and the first sip of root beer. I took that sip over and over. The ice slid down across my fingers again and again. But never again.

It’s a long piece. But my guess is that once you start it, you won’t want to stop. Also, this apparently wasn’t just a one-off strike of awesome. I’m now deeply immersed in the most recent post, “Making Out is its Own Reward,” in which Ebert remembers the days of universities acting in loco parentis with regard to attempting to enforce student-abstinence, the first time he ever saw a gay kiss in real life, and a whole host of other fascinating memories and bits of half-lost history. He tops things off with a selection of YouTube videos about how to kiss, how to make out, and related concerns. In the clip below, two Asian girls sitting on a flight of stairs teach you how to make a move in a movie theater.


Roger Ebert! Our awareness of your awesomeness is belated, and we apologize. We will be paying attention from now on. Cheers!

Author Spotlight / 19 Comments
January 16th, 2010 / 1:33 pm