Roger Ebert's Rules Are Meant to Be Broken
Formerly rotund critic Roger Ebert has sat through approximately one billion movies, so we supported him 100 percent when he walked out of a recent indie film after 8 minutes and gave it a bad review anyway. Nothing if not willing to drag himself further into the muck, he's released a long list of his rules for critics. We can only contend the longest tenured critic in the business is cruising for a bruising this time.After admitting that he cribbed most of the plot details of the film Tru Loved from its IMDB page, Ebert defended himself by saying: "The handwriting was on the wall. The returns were in. The case was closed. You know I'm right.'' We like that Ebert's willing to take risks, and he does the same in describing rules for critics, including some venomous shots at others in the field. As EW noted, much of the article is directed at the work of his tragically bad replacement on the syndicated At the Movies show, Ben Lyons.
With that said, Ebert's just as good at breaking his rules as Lyons is. When he tells other critics to never review a film they've participated in, he somehow neglects to mention the 800 essays he's written about his only screenwriting credit for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Then there's this piece of useful advice: "But in hard times like these, do not say, "Reason enough to get it!" Of course in his 2006 review of Take the Lead, he says: "That said, Antonio Banderas is reason enough to see the movie." That's all part of Ebert's charm, and most of his rules, like "Keep track of your praise" and "Provide a sense of the experience" are well taken. And when he is wrong, he's better than most in his field at issuing corrections:
Do not make challenges you are cannot to back up. [sic] For example, never say in your "Hamlet 2" review, "I challenge anyone who goes to see the movie not to sing the words to 'Rock Me, Sexy Jesus' for years to come." When Gene Siskel predicted that "Hakuna Matata" from "The Lion King" would become a national catch-phrase, he later gracefully acknowledged he was wrong, after only a little prodding from me. [Note: A reader informs me that Gene was right. I believe the jury is still out on "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus."]
Hey, the guy's the most prolific reviewer ever, it's bound to happen. Hakuna Matata. (It means no worries for the rest of your days.)