Roger Ebert has been one of my favorite film critics ever since I was a little kid. I remember looking forward to the At the Movies TV show that Ebert did with fellow critic Gene Siskel back in the early 1980s, and have been a big fan of Ebert’s reviews ever since. I used to agree with almost all of his assessments, but noticed that in recent years our opinions are becoming more and more divergent. Nevertheless, I still read his reviews because I love his writing style. He’s always able to get right to the heart of any film and tell precisely why it does or does not work.
Anyway, I’m aware that Ebert has published numerous books during his career, but I never purchased any of them before because I figured they were just collections of his reviews. However, I decided to go ahead and tack one on to my last Amazon.com order just for the heck of it. I thought it would be nice to use as a reference if nothing else, so that’s how I’ve come to own The Great Movies.
The Great Movies contains not reviews, but essays about 100 films that Ebert thinks deserve to be tagged as “great.” The movies are listed alphabetically, so we don’t get to see which one Ebert sets above all others, but that’s okay. No one would ever agree 100 percent on a numerical ranking anyway!
As you might expect, most of the films Ebert writes about in this book are older ones that have withstood the test of time. In the introduction, Ebert says that 60 of the films on his list are in black and white, and if you can’t learn to appreciate all the nuances that shooting in b&w adds, then you’ll never truly understand film.
I am not a big fan of older movies, so I haven’t seen many of the films Ebert talks about in The Great Movies. But I do have to admit that after reading his essays, I do want to see a few of them in order to try to appreciate what makes them great. There are even some movies that I’d never heard of before, such as A Woman Under the Influence, Peeping Tom, Persona, Mr. Hulot’s Holiday, and The Apu Trilogy.
Some of the more recent films included in the book are: Pulp Fiction, The Silence of the Lambs, Fargo, Schindler’s List, and The Shawshank Redemption. Reading Ebert’s essays about these movies (all of which I have seen) helped me look at a few things from a different perspective and think about things I’d never considered before.
On the whole, I think The Great Movies is an excellent reference book that is fun to browse through at random. It’s something every movie fan should have in his or her library!