Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ebert's Great Movies vol 4?

So I actually did contact the Ebert website and got a response from Jim Emerson that Ebert had planned on a 4th volume of the Great Movies series, and that the publisher was seriously considering it.  What I don't know -- and didn't really have the opportunity to probe --is whether Ebert had notes on which of his other reviews, particularly his 4 star ones, might be migrated to Great Movie status.  I assume that he didn't actually have any unpublished Great Movies posts lying about, since he pretty much put everything up on-line as soon it was ready.

It looks like there are roughly 65 uncollected movies (plus the review he did on the expanded version of Metropolis, but I don't think he would include that).  That is on the thin side -- most of the Great Movie volumes come in at close to 100 reviews.  I already suggested Chloe in the Afternoon, Bringing Out the Dead and After Life.  I think there are legitimate reasons that he would have eventually included these as Great Movies, particularly the last two given that he was generally more inclined towards philosophical movies and movies about death and the hereafter.

I spent a big part of the last couple of evenings archiving Ebert's recent 4-star movies and even some 3.5 star ones (operating on the somewhat paranoid assumption that some conflict will arise between the Sun Times and the Ebert estate and they will all be wiped out without notice some day).  Here are a few reviews that might not be out of place in a potential volume 4.  Not that I expect this to happen, but I'd hate for these to get lost in the cracks -- mostly too late to be in his book of 4 star reviews and not collected anywhere else at the moment.  Note that I am not including all of his recent 4-star reviews, but just movies that I have seen or where the review really resonated with me.

The American
Another Year
Broken Flowers 
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
The Descendants
Le Havre 
I Am Love
The Informant!
Last Train Home
The Mill and the Cross
Monsoon Wedding
A Separation 
A Serious Man
Sita Sings the Blues
Still Walking
Synecdoche, New York (I guess this will hardly get lost given how much he promoted this film)
Up in the Air (Ebert really had a thing for Clooney apparently)

And one that I can almost guarantee you've never heard of:
Patang (one of the few movies that I sought out solely on Ebert's advice -- it was good but perhaps not 4-star good)

Pedro Almodovar:
All About My Mother
Broken Embraces
Talk to Her

I find it fairly astonishing that none of Pedro Almodovar's films made the Great Movies cut, when he had 3 movies garner 4-star reviews and a couple of 3.5 star reviews.  This may be one of the more significant oversights in the Great Movies list, especially since Ebert generally liked what he was up to.  But it was a slowly acquired taste.  In the High Heels review, he admits that he simply didn't get Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, which remains my favourite Almodovar film, even if I realize some of the later films are more artistically complex.

(At least Ebert continued engaging with Almodovar.  He really didn't care for Terry Gilliam and didn't like Brazil at all, whereas he was quite taken with the even more anarchic and difficult to follow Holy Motors.  I do wonder if he gave more of a pass to French and Italian directors than to directors of English-language films.  David Cronenberg gets just a little love here, but not surprisingly it is Eastern Promises -- a most atypical film -- that gets the highest approval from Ebert.)

But enough quibbling.  I agreed with Ebert about 75% of the time, and respected him whether I agreed with the review or not.  I know I'm not alone in really missing Ebert and his take on the movies...

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