Roger Ebert is still wrong

December 1, 2008

Bill Wyman, former arts editor for National Public Radio and, agrees with Swimmin’ Hole! that Roger Ebert is wrong about the demise of movie reviews in newspapers. Wyman writes on his blog, Hitsville:

Today, if I’m interested in critical takes on, say, Australia, in a click or two I have at hand the writings of Manohla Dargis, Ebert himself, Ken Turan, Ella Taylor and Todd McCarthy on that film. A click or two more and I have at my disposal the collective wisdom of the internets’ collective film writing, the intellectual equivalent of that sandworm in Dune, majestic and slightly nauseating at the same time.

What in the world is wrong with this picture?

For virtually everyone interested in film criticism, today’s state of affairs is great.

Ebert’s vista is the too-narrow one of daily newspapers. That’s an artificial construct that has no resonance to anyone with a computer.

Sure, Wyman uses words like “vista,” “resonance” and “artificial construct,” but at least Swimmin’ Hole! knows that “Internet” is capitalized.


Welcome to the 21st Century, Roger Ebert

December 1, 2008

When Roger Ebert was young, he used to walk to school, in the snow, uphill, both ways, and when he got there, he’d open the newspaper and read 5,000-word film reviews before class started. And he never complained.

Until now.

arodonnaThat’s because the lengthy, in-depth newspaper film review is dead, replaced by syndicated columnists and “news” about what A-Rodonna had for Thanksgiving dinner. So, like every other old school journalist who’s having trouble adapting to the 21st Century, Ebert is whining about it in a Chicago Sun-Times column:

The AP wants its writers on the entertainment beat to focus more on the kind of brief celebrity items its clients apparently hunger for. The AP, long considered obligatory to the task of running a North American newspaper, has been hit with some cancellations lately, and no doubt has been informed what its customers want: Affairs, divorces, addiction, disease, success, failure, death watches, tirades, arrests, hissy fits, scandals, who has been “seen with” somebody, who has been “spotted with” somebody, and “top ten” lists of the above. (Celebs “seen with” desire to be seen, celebs “spotted with” do not desire to be seen.)

The CelebCult virus is eating our culture alive, and newspapers voluntarily expose themselves to it.

Of course, he’s right. But he’s missing the point. In case you haven’t noticed, Rog, newspapers are a business, and business is bad. They’re giving readers what they want, and still nobody’s buying them. Imagine if they tried to force feed people with intellectual — or dare I say educational — news and critiques?

The good news in all of this is that there are still plenty of people interested in such content and plenty of places to get it. There are of course the good magazines like Vanity Fair and the New Yorker, but more and more of what Ebert’s looking for is found online. Unfortunately for him, he seems to treat online media as second-class, judging by this sentence:

The internationally-respected film critic of the Chicago Reader, Jonathan Rosenbaum, has retired, accepted a buy-out, will write for his blog, or something.

As Swimmin’ Hole! clearly demonstrates, blogs are the new frontier for in-depth, quality journalism. But the more important point — which Ebert seems to be missing — is that the medium is becoming less important than the actual content. With these newfangled computer thingies, we can find what we’re looking for — whether it’s a 5,000-word movie review, a 200-word article about Britney Spears or a rant about an out-of-touch film critic — wherever it happens to be.

And if you don’t realize that, you’re REALLY out of touch: