Esteemed American film critic Roger Ebert has had quite a rocky few past months.
First came the news the he, along with his At the Movies co-host Richard Roeper, were leaving the popular show after Disney decided to take it into a new, more commercial friendly direction.
This was followed by Ebert receiving criticism from Brad Brevet at Rope of Silicon, that he gives away too many stars in his film reviews, after movies such as The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, and The Women, received 3 star verdicts.
Ebert responded, by stating: “I like movies too much. I walk into the theatre not in an adversarial attitude, but with hope and optimism (except for some movies, of course). I know that to get a movie made is a small miracle, that the reputations, careers and finances of the participants are on the line, and that hardly anybody sets out to make a bad movie.”
An incident at the Toronto Film Festival followed, where Ebert – who is unable to speak due to effects from thyroid cancer treatment – casually tapped the shoulder of New York film critic Lou Lumenick, who was blocking the screen, leaving Ebert unable to read the subtitles. Lemenick responded by whacking Ebert with a folded up program.
Being the good sport that he is, Ebert down played the incident, stating: “I have had my problems, but I promise you I am plenty hearty enough to withstand a smack, and quite happy, after the smack, to tap him again. I had to see those subtitles. There was no pain. The incident is over. Peace.”
Lumenick has yet to respond, or apologise, about the incident.
Then came what Ebert described as a surprised reaction to his breakdown on Creationism, with Evolutionists up in arms over whether Ebert has turned Creationist, and why he has used his website and online journal to promote the controversial, yet popular religious belief, that the world is in fact 10,00 years old, and that humans walked with the dinosaurs.
Ebert countered the controversy with an article on his online journal, which said: "Let me suggest that while satire was certainly my purpose, creationists were not my intended audience. By stating their beliefs accurately, my hope was that on a site such as mine they would reach a wider readership that might have heard about creationism but didn't realize what it actually believes. Only 4 percent of Americans are creationists. Do you have any idea how many Americans don't know what it teaches? I don't. I know the original article was linked far and wide, which is encouraging."
I must contend that while Ebert found it depressing to find that many an Evolutionist took angry offence to his article, that I was not the least bit surprised. After all, many of their leaders have displayed ignorant, disrespectful and often immature behaviour towards different belief structures, whether it is Richard Dawkins pseudo ravings about religious up brining equal to that of child abuse; or, P.Z. Myers’ desecration of a Catholic Eucharist host, which he described simply as a “cracker”.
And, no, I am not a Creationist. And even if I were, would that make me less human?
Finally came a rather surprising and disappointing move by Ebert, who published a negative review of independent film Tru Loved, after only having watched the first 8 minutes of the film. This led to a wave of criticism from both fans and fellow film critics.
Gary Susman from Entertainment Weekly wrote: "No other movie critic in America could have pulled off such a stunt without getting fired. I fear that, even though he corrected his mistake, he's still set a bad example. At a time when film critics all over America are losing their jobs, it can't be good for readers, editors, or filmmakers to think that when he did passes for professional, acceptable behaviour among film critics and the outlets that publish their work, even for a moment."
Ebert was quick to find the error of his ways, reviewing the film in full (it still received 1 star), and issuing a statement which said: “I must apologize to writer-director Stewart Wade, his actors and his crew. They did nothing to deserve this. For them it must have been like a drive-by shooting.”
Who says that being a film critic isn’t dangerous business?