Here’s a follow up from last week’s Weekend Read links that went to stories about novel writers who were happy with the film adaptations of their work. The Guardian takes a look at Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining to see if author Stephen King had a right to be upset with how the film came out. (Kubrick was forever irritating authors with his adaptations of their books. Anthony Burgess has disowned the screen version of A Clockwork Orange, even when it is considered a classic by film critics. And Red Alert author Peter George was reportedly not happy with the way his Cold War thriller novel mutated into Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Start Worrying And Love The Bomb.)
Another film that gets some reconsideration this week is Michael Cimino’s infamous Heaven’s Gate. A runaway production with an out-of-control director lead to a final cost that bankrupted its studio United Artists had critics sharpening their knives long before the film even premiered. But was it deserving of all the critical animus it received at the time? The film has just been released with a new restoration and it appears as if given some remove from the excesses of its production, critics may be giving it more of a fair evaluation, as does this critique over at Slate.
And finally, we lost Roger Ebert this week, the best that film reviewing had to offer. There have been lots of praising of his career showing up over the last couple of days, and while all of them are heartfelt and worth your time, I do like this two-part discussion that took place Thursday evening on Chris Hayes’s show on MSNBC. Following that is the very first television appearance of Ebert with his long time reviewing sparring partner Gene Siskel.
Roger Ebert, film critic, historian, and screenwriter, has died earlier today after a decade-long on-and-off struggle with cancer. He had only announced earlier this week that he was taking a “leave of presence” after the discovery that recurrence of cancer following a hip fracture suffered in December. He was 70.
Ebert served as the film reviewer for the Chicago Sun Times for 46 years, and in 1975, he became the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. But it is with co-host Gene Siskel that Ebert came to national attention with the movie review show Sneak Previews, later known as At The Movies. As writers for competing Chicago dailies, the two had a natural rivalry that came out on screen, though over the course of the show they became fast friends. The two sometimes earned the ire of directors for the reviews. After having one of his films savaged by the duo, director Roland Emmerich stuck a parody of Siskel and Ebert into his 1998 Godzilla as the incompetent mayor of New York City and his unctuous aid. Siskel and Ebert also gave that film a bad review. After Siskel’s death in 1999, Ebert continued the show with first a rotating series of co-hosts and then Richard Roper.
Some critics decried that Siskel and Ebert’s simple “thumbs up/thumbs down” as a dumbing down of film criticism, but the pair’s lively back-and-forth discussions brought ideas on how to watch and evaluate films into America’s living rooms. Many of the current generation of online film critics have acknowledged the influence that Siskel and Ebert’s program had on them. The pair became so famous that they appeared on Late Night With David Letterman, Saturday Night Live and were even animated on The Critic.
But Ebert wasn’t merely content to just critic film, he wrote the screenplays for three films that were directed by Russ Meyers – Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens and Up!. A fourth collaboration, Who Killed Bambi?, would have featured the film debut of the punk band the Sex Pistols but it had its financing pulled by Twentieth Century Fox just as production was starting.
Ebert published some 20 books. While many of them were collections of his reviews, he also published a cook book for rice cookers, a humorous glossary of film terms, a novel titled Behind The Phantom’s Mask and his memoirs.
Perhaps prophetically and certainly fittingly, Ebert’s last published words came on Tuesday at the end of a blog post announcing the recurrence of his cancer – “I’ll see you at the movies.”
Noted film critic Roger Ebert has for some time been critical of the new wave of 3D films that have been coming out of Hollywood, taking aim at their deficiencies both as films and in their technical presentation. Well, Ebert has had a chance to see the newly 3D converted version of James Cameron’s Titanic, and not surprisingly, he takes some shots at the result, calling it “a shabby way to treat a masterpiece.”
The bulk of Ebert’s review discusses the film and how some of the minor flaws in the movie, mostly about some character actions, but in the last two paragraphs he unloads on what he sees are the problems with the conversion process done on the film. Some of his comments are reiterations of complaints that he has voiced in the past about the low light level of most 3D films today and that the conversion doesn’t work because the Titanic was never originally intended to be seen in 3D.
And Ebert’s points address some things that I am sure that Cameron and studio Twentieth Century Fox were probably hoping that no one brings into the conversation as the film draws close to its April 4 release date. Good luck to their marketing departments with that.