Roger Ebert, arguably the most well-known (and most well-liked for that matter) movie critic of our time, died yesterday at the age of 70. As one half of Siskel and Ebert, the on-camera duo that pioneered the “thumbs up/thumbs down” movie review, Roger Ebert was also a critic for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967 and was the first journalist ever to win a Pulitzer Prize for film criticism. Although widely revered for his powers over the movie-going public, Ebert insisted that beyond being a critic, he considered himself “beneath everything else, a fan.” He was a man that loved going to the movies, and his love of the art form often shone through in his honest and accurate reviews.
5 Armageddon – 1 Star
Armageddon featured an asteroid “the size of Texas” bearing down on Earth, and the movie itself was a piece of crap the size of two Texases. Ebert hilariously referred to it as “the first ever 150-minute trailer,” and shrewdly pointed out that an asteroid the size of a large Wal-Mart would kill every living thing on the planet, so even blowing up this Texas-sized rock wouldn’t necessarily stop fragments of it from decimating the planet anyway. In the end, Ebert summed up the experience of going to see Armageddon with this: “No matter what they’re charging to get in, it’s worth more to get out.”
4 Star Wars – 4 Stars
Roger Ebert can tell you exactly why you love Star Wars, even if you can’t explain it particularly well yourself. Despite all its lasers and special effects, all its strange creatures and alien life forms, Star Wars is simply a human story. It’s a combination of elements we’ve come to know and love in the prototypical hero’s journey. Ebert speaks of having “an out of body experience” while watching Star Wars and being completely sucked into the movie, showing that even early on, he knew it was quite a significant film.
3 The Sandlot – 3 Stars
In watching The Sandlot Roger Ebert drew an ingenious comparison; it’s A Christmas Story set in summertime. Like its counterpart that wasn’t really about Christmas, The Sandlot wasn’t really about baseball. They’re both just stories of what it’s like to be an adolescent kid in a world much bigger than you. Ebert saw how the imagination, embellishment and nostalgia in The Sandlot set it apart from the average kids’ sports movie, and gave it the credit that an honestly worthy movie deserves.
2 40-Year-Old Virgin – 3 Â½ Stars
This one was surprising, but despite not exactly being in the movie’s target demographic, Roger Ebert saw everything that was wonderful about the 40-Year-Old Virgin. He saw past the low-brow bits and saw the movie for what it was; a comedy with genuine heart and substance. This review, more than most, shows what made Roger Ebert such a well-rounded and entertaining critic. After all, Ebert isn’t exactly the guy you’d expect to see complimenting the humor of Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen’s “You know how I know you’re gay?” bit.
1 Goodfellas – 4 Stars
Roger Ebert perfectly encapsulated what it is that makes Goodfellas such a great movie; it stays with you. He spoke of the “mood of the characters” lingering with him for two days, and how Martin Scorsese manages, over the course of a long movie that lacks a traditional plot, to pull the viewer in to the point that they “feel” what it’s like to be in the mafia. They feel great when times are good, they feel trapped when things go bad, and in the end they’re filled with both regret and nostalgia when it’s all over.