Monthly Archives: April 2013

Twenty Roger Ebert Quotes

[Here, in no particular order, are twenty quotations which I think summarize Roger Ebert’s importance–not just as a film critic, but as a writer and an artist. Sources in quotation marks are blog posts; the rest are movie reviews.]

1. Sixty seconds of wondering if someone is about to kiss you is more entertaining than 60 minutes of kissing. (The Winslow Boy)

2. Of course some of the characters are sympathetic and others are hateful. And of course some of the likable characters do bad things. Isn’t that the way it is in America today? (Do the Right Thing)

3. That’s the sign of a great filmmaker: He only explains what he has to explain, and with a great movie the longer it runs, the less has to be explained. (E.T.)

4. Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” is one of the greatest Bruised Forearm Movies ever made. You know what a Bruised Forearm Movie is. That’s the kind of movie where your date is always grabbing your forearm in a viselike grip, as unbearable excitement unfolds on the screen. (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom)

5. Pro athletes get paid. Pro fans work pro bono. For anyone to describe himself as a team’s “No. 1 Fan” is kind of pathetic…. This isn’t only, or even, a sports movie. It’s about leading a life vicariously. There’s a movie out now called “Surrogates,” about a future time when people recline at home hooked up to brain sensors, and lead their lives through more attractive and younger android versions of themselves. This practice is going on now. (Big Fan)

6. No good films are depressing. All bad films are depressing. (“Toronto #2: Deliver Us from Evil”)

7. Should a woman fall in love with a man because he desires her so much? Men seem to think so. (Twilight)

8. Two things that cannot be convincingly faked are laughter and orgasm. If a movie made you laugh, as a critic you have to be honest and report that. Not so much with orgasms. (“In the meadow, we can pan a snowman”)

9. I’ve been saying for years that I never cry during sad moments in the movies, only during moments about goodness. (“I feel good! I knew that I would!”)

10. No computer will ever be alive. But to the degree that we are limited by our programming, neither will we. The question is not whether a computer will ever think like a human, but whether we choose to free ourselves from thinking like computers. (Being There)

Roger Ebert

11. Among the lessons every young man should learn is this one: All women who like you because you make them laugh sooner or later stop laughing, and then why do they like you? (Igby Goes Down)

12. When has a film so subtly and yet so completely captured nostalgia for past happiness? The movie is about the simplest of human pleasures: The desire to get away for a few days, to play instead of work, to breathe in the sea air, and maybe meet someone nice. It is about the hope that underlies all vacations, and the sadness that ends them. And it is amused, too, that we go about our days so intently, while the sea and the sky go about theirs. (Mr. Hulot’s Holiday)

13. I know full well I’m expected to Suspend My Disbelief. Unfortunately, my disbelief is very heavy, and during “Ocean’s Thirteen,” the suspension cable snapped. (Ocean’s Thirteen)

14. Every once in a while I have what I think of as an out-of-the-body experience at a movie. When the ESP people use a phrase like that, they’re referring to the sensation of the mind actually leaving the body and spiriting itself off to China or Peoria or a galaxy far, far away. When I use the phrase, I simply mean that my imagination has forgotten it is actually present in a movie theater and thinks it’s up there on the screen. In a curious sense, the events in the movie seem real, and I seem to be a part of them. Star Wars works like that. (Star Wars, 1977)

15. It is an interesting law of romance that a truly strong woman will choose a strong man who disagrees with her over a weak one who goes along. Strength demands intelligence, intelligence demands stimulation, and weakness is boring. It is better to find a partner you can contend with for a lifetime than one who accommodates you because he doesn’t really care. (The Winslow Boy)

16. Lunch and dinner are the two occasions when we most easily meet with friends and family. They’re the first way we experience places far from home. Where we sit to regard the passing parade. How we learn indirectly of other cultures. When we feel good together. Meals are when we get a lot of our talking done — probably most of our recreational talking…So that’s what’s sad about not eating. The loss of dining, not the loss of food. It may be personal, but for me, unless I’m alone, it doesn’t involve dinner if it doesn’t involve talking. The food and drink I can do without easily. The jokes, gossip, laughs, arguments and shared memories I miss. Sentences beginning with the words, “Remember that time?” I ran in crowds where anyone was likely to break out in a poetry recitation at any time. Me too. But not me anymore. So yes, it’s sad. Maybe that’s why I enjoy this blog. You don’t realize it, but we’re at dinner right now. (“Nil by Mouth”)

17. I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting. My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris. I don’t expect to die soon…. I hope not. I have plans. (“Go gentle into that good night”)

[on Elevation, the psychological theory that some things can trigger the mind to replace cynicism with hope:]

18. If I were a film producer hoping to make a movie with deep appeal, I would consciously look for Elevation–remembering that it seems to come not through messages or happy endings or sad ones, but in moments when characters we believe in–even an animated robot garbageman–achieve something good. I have observed before that we live in a box of space and time, and movies can open a window in the box. One human life, closely observed, is everyone’s life. In the particular is the universal. Empathy is the feeling that most makes us human. Elevation may be the emotion caused when we see people giving themselves up, if only for a moment, to caring about others. (“I feel good! I knew that I would!”)

19. “Kindness” covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out. (“Go gentle into that good night”)

[The last words of his last blog post:]

20. So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies.


Filed under Art