Friday, November 28, 2008

Roger Ebert and the Demise of the Ink-Stained Wretch


It's funny -- I typically consider Roger Ebert's movie opinions pretty worthless, off-the-mark and overly deferential to mainstream tripe [insert Cribbs rebuttal here and here and here]. That's not to say he can't turn a phrase among some of the best reviewers, such as this one from his Kingdom of the Crystal Skull review, which he, predictably, enjoyed:
"If you eat four pounds of sausage, how do you choose which pound tasted the best? Well, the first one, of course, and then there's a steady drop-off of interest."

But his thoughts on the decline of the newspaper industry and his defenses of the value of the printed word have been spot on, even stirring in their passion. He wrote a blog post Wednesday about the AP's new limit of 500 words on movie reviews. Here's the hottest selection:
“Perhaps fearing the challenge of reading a newspaper will prove daunting, papers are using increasing portions of their shrinking news holes in providing guides to reading themselves.” … “The celebrity culture is infantilizing us. We are being trained not to think. It is not about the disappearance of film critics. We are the canaries. It is about the death of an intelligent and curious, readership, interested in significant things and able to think critically. It is about the failure of our educational system. It is not about dumbing-down. It is about snuffing out.

The news is still big. It’s the newspapers that got small.”
Yowzers. Ebert isn't too cheery on his future with newspapers, and with good cause. Ebert, however, is representing a different view of the decay of the industry, one that is being lamented more than the the loss of the physical product itself: he says the fault lies not soley at the feet of the internet, blogs and the 24-hour news environment, but rather on the doorstep of the decline of intellectualism among the population as a whole, this fascination with tasting the trifle that is destroying our abilities to digest the significant.

Read the whole thing here. It's still not enough to get me to watch Crystal Skull again though. Sorry Rog.

4 comments:

N said...

Good post. I think Ebert is dead on though. Have you realized how popular the Washington and Baltimore Examiners are? (500 word max!)

Jonathan Cribbs said...

Two things: Most movie critics' reviews are relatively off-the-mark. Look at how many people trashed "Magnolia" and now praise it.

Other thing: I will forward you as many great reviews as I have to show you Ebert has a deep and nuanced understanding of film despite his incisiveness. He's also right more often than not.

Jonathan Cribbs said...

I didn't mean "off-the-mark." I meant off-the-cuff.

But Ebert is a pretty well-respected guy. I direct you to this review of his work. Written by A.O. Scott in The New York Times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/13/movies/13scot.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=roger%20ebert&st=cse

Peter said...

shut up Cribbsey boy.