Roger Ebert Died Today: What I’ll Miss Most

Reading Roger Ebert’s reviews was always a pleasure, and I knew when they started slowing down that there was cause to worry. While I learned a great deal about movies by reading reviews of films he admired–and often came to reconsider movies whose qualities I hadn’t appreciated on first viewing–what I’ll remember most are his reviews of bad movies, which could bring a laugh to even my lousiest day:

Jaws The Revenge

I believe the shark wants revenge against Mrs. Brody. I do. I really do believe it. After all, her husband was one of the men who hunted this shark and killed it, blowing it to bits. And what shark wouldn’t want revenge against the survivors of the men who killed it?

 

Armageddon

Armageddon reportedly used the services of nine writers. Why did it need any? The dialogue is either shouted one-liners or romantic drivel. “It’s gonna blow!” is used so many times, I wonder if every writer used it once, and then sat back from his word processor with a contented smile on his face, another day’s work done.

 

Return to the Blue Lagoon

I had this great idea for a sequel to The Poseidon Adventure. You remember the movie where the ocean liner was overturned by a tidal wave, and the passengers had to climb to safety through an upside-down ship. In my sequel, just as they got to their destination, another tidal wave would come along and right the ship–and they’d have to retrace their steps.

 

The makers of Return to the Blue Lagoon are working in the same great tradition.

 

And once he helped me survive a movie induced trauma. I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere somewhere a little stink bomb that just about turned me off permanently called The Lonely Lady:

The movie’s whole plot hinges on Pia’s ability to rewrite a scene better than her jealous writer-husband. When the star of her husband’s movie weeps that she can’t play a certain graveyard scene, Pia whips out the portable typewriter and writes brilliant new dialogue for the star. What, you may ask, does Pia write? Here’s what. She has the grieving widow kneel by the side of the open grave and cry out (are you ready for this?) “Why? Why!!!”

 

That’s it. That’s the brilliant dialogue. And it can be used for more than a death scene, let me tell you. In fact, I walked out of this movie saying to myself, “Why? Why!!!”

I don’t know how we’ll face the coming relentless onslaught of bad movies without him, or whether I’ll be able to stand Michael Bay’s continued, maddening success without Ebert to help me stay frosty. What I do know is that amid the raging torrent of hype and empty flattery that is much of the business we call movie, we’ve lost an honest, funny voice who reminded us that, just because we’re offered crap, it doesn’t follow that we’re obliged to take it.

I’ll miss you, Mr. Ebert.

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