Ebert’s Bests (Chicago Shorts) by Roger Ebert

By Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert is a reputation synonymous with the flicks. In Ebert’s Bests, he is taking readers throughout the trip of the way he turned a movie critic, from his days at a student-run cinema membership to his upward push as a tv commentator in on the videos and Siskel & Ebert. Recounting the effect of the French New Wave, his friendships with Werner Herzog and Martin Scorsese, in addition to travels to Sweden and Rome to go to Ingrid Bergman and Federico Fellini, Ebert by no means loses sight of movie as a key component to our cultural identification. In contemplating the ethics of movie criticism—why we should always take all movie heavily, with no prejudgment or condescension—he argues that movie critics ought continuously to have interaction in open-minded discussion with a film. Extending this to his accompanying choice of “10 Bests,” he reminds us that hearts and minds—and even rankings—are absolute to swap.

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None of this will work at a premodern moment. Consider this: In presenting his argument to President Bush that the United States should not pre-emptively attack Iraq, Secretary of State Colin Powell was advised to reduce his position to one page and then be prepared to further condense that one page into a five-minute oral presentation. Message? This is not a moment when reading and criticism are in flower. We, in fact, went to war in spite of what knowledge was readily available. No, this is not a time to experiment with boundaries between the discursive and the nondiscursive, between reason and imagination, between fact and fiction, between creativity and criticism.

But it doesn’t multiplex reality. The whole world has gone screwball in these comedies, and everybody in the audience is trying to put it back together and having no chance of doing that. But in the postmodern world, the whole world doesn’t stay whole. ——— ——— Off Camera: KEY GRIP: Break. Hey guys, meet our film editor. Favorite comedy of all time? FILM EDITOR: Naturally it’s a film I edited. The Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski (1998), which these two characters should talk about as an example of a postmodern comedy, but they won’t get around to it until I edit all their chat down.

And your comic sense comes out of the reality you’re in. The awareness of all this is what I call the postmodern awareness. And all these worlds are in motion, some just emerging, some fading, some clashing, some so privileged we assume they represent the whole world. It’s like saying screwball comedy captures reality as it is. Not melodrama, or tales of the wild West, or sci-fi, or mystery, or romance. But screwball. In the postmod view, all of a sudden at a certain time Hollywood put on a screwball lens and began to filter the world in that way.

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