Good Faith, Stupidity, And The Internet

Part 4: Cults Of Personality (Part 1)

Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 7/15/10


Introduction   The Post   The Comments   The Blog   Conclusions




  In my ongoing series of explorations of the insanity of these still early Internet years, I have touched upon a number of topics, but never one as this: the rise of cults of personality online. In the first part I will examine a cult following one of the biggest names online, at least in terms of hits and Internet traffic, and in the second part I will examine the inverse, cults of personality wherein the devotees and cult figures are unknown, and often form a cult of a singular person- i.e.- one where cult leader and cultist reside in one delusive person, or one with few followers outside themselves. Now, some may wonder if I, or Cosmoetica, fit into that mold. After all, there are only a few websites in the arts with more readers, but almost all of them are large arts organizations or corporate controlled. As far as I know, Cosmoetica is the most visited independent, non-commercial arts website online. But, I do not have rabid fans. There are no potential stalkers out there (in the sense of someone so positive or negative as to fall into Squaeky Fromme mode). Yes, I have related many cases of negative cyberstalking, but as years go on, and Cosmoetica gets more and more coverage by other entities, it has become almost ‘respectable’ for mainstream folk to admit they ‘like’ the website and/or my writings. I harbor no illusions that many of the ideas I’ve put forth are simply not of the sort that typical websurfers will ever ‘get.’ But the phenomenon is real- the longer anything lasts, good or ill, the easier it becomes to admit liking it. And here we see how the online world works. The biggest ‘name’ person to ‘come out of the closet’ and admit he is a fan of my website is Chicago Sun-Times film critic, and former television show host, Roger Ebert. Late last year he wrote a blog post about my website and my writings, in which he praised both, citing me as an ‘ideal’ critic, which, in tur,led me to reading his blog, which I barely knew of, which in turn led me into the den of his cult of personality (ok, go ahead with the Daniel in the lion’s den references). Prior to starting this essay I had only skimmed the post about me and a few dozen of the comments it generated, but now having gone so, my response is, ‘My god, what an unfortunately typical display of ignorance!

  Yet, in one of those ironies that abound online, it was not because I had contacted him; although a couple years earlier I had emailed and called his newspaper several times to try and get him to be interviewed for The Dan Schneider Interviews. Given my lack of interest in celebrity gossip, my knowledge of Ebert’s physical ills were just that he had gotten ill and his show, Ebert And Roeper At The Movies, had gone off the air. It was only in the wake of this post that I had found out all the ills he’d suffered, which had robbed him of his jaw, his voice, his ability to eat, and reduced him to an almost Stephen Hawking-like state of disability, with little left in his life (if online videos are to be believed) save for film watching, writing and monitoring his own blog, and likely having to read the same inane comments over and again. And I know how frustrating correspondence from fans and haters can be. But, no, it was not my repeated entreaties in 2007 that got Ebert hooked on the site; it ironically was an email sent to him by a noted early cyberstalker of me and Cosmoetica. He went under many names back in the day: Tor Svensland, Peter Swenson, Peter Svensland, Iago Dali, amongst others, and I honestly cannot say what his real name is/was, nor where he was from. For clarity’s sake, in this essay I shall refer to him as ‘Tor’ even though that was not the name he gave to Ebert. I do so simply because that was his most used handle to harass me, and ‘Tor’ evokes his presence in my mind. My suspicions, early on, when he was emailing and harassing me, back in the first few years Cosmoetica was online, was that he knew me from the poetry scene in Minnesota, as he seemed to have knowledge of things, events, and people only someone from that place and time could have. But as years go on, and I no longer have such emails, I cannot prove this. However, last December, after 4 or 5 years of not hearing from the guy, I got an email out of the proverbial blue from him, informing me that something wonderful had happened to him. That event was that he had sent an email to Ebert, reputedly to settle a bet with a friend of his over my writing. The truth is, about a month earlier, I had gotten an email from him stating his intent to do so, and scoffed at it. I wrote him that he was crazy to think, of all the thousands of emails Ebert must get (on top of all the blog comments), that he would answer Tor’s, especially since it was so long and bizarre, and I had gotten nowhere with my own interview requests. I deleted the email, wished him well, and prepared for a renewal of the stalking.

  It never came. All that came was Tor’s email, a day or so after the piece was posted online, and when I read it I was shocked: a) that Ebert read it, b) that he posted the email from Tor, seemingly in full, c) that he commented upon it, d) that he commented very highly on my writings, and e) that all of this was because of one man’s former obsession with me. And I say ‘former’ with a reason, because I only received a couple of emails from Tor afterward, and he has again disappeared into the cyber-black hole from whence he came. What I did find out, both from emails directed at me, and the email conversation between him and Ebert, that were forwarded to me as ‘proof’ that Tor was not lying, was that the years he had not been stalking me were because something had changed for him. Tor had had some midlife crisis, been institutionalized, dried out (apparently he was on drugs or alcohol during his cyberstalking days), and when he reacquainted himself with Cosmoetica, he now found it and me to be champions of quality; not some upstart with a poetry website that he envied, as so many of the other losers I’ve detailed in essays have. In this regard, Tor was not the first, nor is he the last former hater that has become a fan of the website. Nonetheless, as of this essay’s posting, Ebert’s post has garnered over 550 comments, with rarely more than a few days going by without a new comment and/or commenter. I was not surprised that, early on, most of the comments were hostile, but as months have worn on, a handful of fans of my website have chimed in, as have newer fans (my traffic at Cosmoetica has seen a steady 15+% jump in readership over last year) who have found the site due to the post.


The Post


  Herein, I will quote and comment on Ebert’s post, Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?, and its most interesting/relevant comments. It begins this way:

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a friend have been debating about my qualities as a film critic, and they've involved a considerable critic, Dan Schneider, in their discussion. I will say that he has given the question a surprising amount of thought and attention over the years, and may well be correct in some aspects. What his analysis gives me is a renewed respect and curiosity about his own work.

  Interestingly, Ebert’s preface contains compliments, but note Ebert’s surprise that I would write of him and his opinions. It becomes clear reading this all (including Ebert’s comments on others’ comments) that Ebert simply has no sense of himself as a celebrity. While this is good in terms of his not condescending to ‘the little people,’ it does reveal that he is a bit out of touch with reality. After all, his blog boasts almost 100 million hits a year, and does he really think this is because of his writing, and not his fame- decades of being printed in a major newspaper and being on a well watched television show? When I emailed Ebert, after this broke, I asked him if he had been reading Cosmoetica since my request for an interview. Ebert never replied to that. His emails were usually short and pointed, likely, as I too get inundated with emails, because he gets so damned many. Ebert then quotes Tor’s email. Again, I do not know if it is word for word the email he had initially sent me in November of 2009, as I deleted it with no thought it would come of anything, and because it came from a known stalker, but I believe it is the same, although it may be longer or slightly altered (edited by Ebert or someone for clarity’s sake, etc.).

Dear Roger,

A friend and I would like to have your opinion. It's basically so that we can settle an argument (and small side bet) with a friend over what your opinion would be. My friend and I have carefully co-drafted this email to try to eliminate one or the other of our biases. I hope we succeeded!

I have read your columns and watched your tv shows for many years now and have also enjoyed the few commentaries you've done on DVDs. Until now I have always been what is called a "lurker" on blogs; whether yours or other blogs on politics or the arts. Having said that, I want to admit that I usually preferred your old partner Gene Siskel's opinions to yours. When you guys disagreed I probably sided with his opinion 80-90% of the time. But I always enjoyed your opinions even if I disagreed with them.

One of the things I have enjoyed about your love of films is your charity. I love how you will go out of the way to promote films you believe in (small budget and independent), and also people you support. I recall your championing of Barbara Kopple's documentary about coal miners, and also how you promoted the Internet film reviewer James Berardinelli. Because of you I started reading his website on a fairly regular basis.

  The comparison of Ebert as the heart and Siskel as the brain of the pair is nothing new. I then get drawn into the debate as a de facto ‘latter day Siskel.’ While, like Tor, I too preferred Siskel, in the sense that his opinions agreed with mine more than not when the two critics disagreed over a film I had seen, the truth is my pro-Siskel ‘bias,’ for lack of a better term, was not as pronounced as even Tor’s claim of 80-90%. Mine was likely a 55-45% or 60-40% siding with Siskel. Having interviewed Berardinelli myself, there’s little doubt that he’s one of the few good online reviewers of film out there, and really the only one whose traffic can rival mine (although his is from film fans alone whereas mine is more diverse- all of the major arts, so the comparison bogs down).

A friend of mine then pointed me to an interview Berardinelli did on film, where you were mentioned. It is a website called www.cosmoetica.com. It is run by a man named Dan Schneider. It is not specifically a film review site, as it has other pieces on literature, poetry, science, and the interview series Berardinelli was in. I have to say that, after reading the Berardinelli interview, I started reading the site (mostly the film stuff) and found it to be quite interesting. I tended to find myself agreeing more with Schneider's opinions on films more than other critics. In fact, like with Gene Siskel, probably 80-90% of the time. It turns out that his website is quite popular and he seems to be quite controversial because he takes on the opinions of other critics, including you. He is rather scathing of Cahiers du Cinema, Andre Bazin, and many mainstream critics.

  Here is the section where I got a bit suspicious. Tor pretends he never had a negative history with me, as if he just found the site by accident. Why? Ebert would not know one way or the other? But, again, I may be imbuing my knowledge of our past into things.

This is where my friend and I disagreed. He started comparing Schneider to the film critic Armond White. I looked back at your rip on White, earlier this year, and while I generally agree with your take on him, I think Schneider is a different kettle of fish. Whereas White seems to willfully disagree on the worth of a film merely to stand out, Schneider seems to have interesting rationales for his beliefs. Even when I disagree with his opinions (10-20% of the time) I have to admit he is logical and consistent, even if I think wrong. Therefore I argued that Schneider is not a willful contrarian like White, just someone who brings a different and unique perspective on films.

  I had never even heard of White before all this, and now, online, this comparison is made quite often. Yet, as I have shown in reviews, and some blog posts, White likely does not even watch the films he reviews, or how could he get so many facts wrong about the tales, actors, and other information. His writing is pedestrian, and his analytical abilities nihil. And, on this score, Ebert is most certainly right: White is simply a contrarian, with no discernible critical aspect.

Then we got to arguing over his opinion of you. My friend is an unadulterated fan of yours; to a fault, I think. While I am a fan of your writing and career, as I mentioned, I think I preferred Siskel to you because he was more cerebral and you were more swayed by emotion. I think Schneider is more like Siskel, as well.

Then we argued over Schneider's opinion of you. My friend thinks Schneider is very unfair in some of his criticisms of your career. But, I challenged him to look over the times he mentions you or your opinion about a certain film and we found 14 mentions. After some discussion we concluded that in the 14 mentions of you we could find on his website, Schneider was critical of you 6 times, defended your opinion or writing 6 times, and was in the middle twice. In essence, we settled nothing. It was a draw.

  As you read the comments below, you will see this meme multiply: that somehow I ‘obsessed over Ebert.’ 14 mentions out of 4-500 film reviews is hardly obsession. Simply put, Ebert is the most quoted film critic of the last four decades, just as Bosley Crowther of the New York Times was before him. Their opinions, for better or worse, set the tone for film criticism of their eras, and those opinions were ceaselessly cribbed. Why would I be quoting the watered down versions of the same thing from a critic now unknown? My reviews not only review films and DVDs, but the critical climate of the times, and I often point out obvious flaws and unequivocal errors other critics make. That’s what a critic does, or should do, to be a good critic. That others do not do this is the problem, not that I do. And, the 50-50 split is a lot closer to my own clam of a 55-45 favorability of Siskel over Ebert.

If I could sum up Schneider's opinion of you it would be that, like me, he thinks you are too emotional. He feels you have a mediocre critical ability but are great with words. He feels you won your Pulitzer Prize for your writing not your critical ability. He also feels that you are a great film historian and one of the best DVD commentarians (is that a word?) going. I think you are a bit better critically, but basically I agree with the overall assessment. My friend thinks that any criticism of you has to be based upon envy because you write for a big newspaper and not online.

So, this is why we crafted this letter and I am emailing it. I believe that while you may bristle at some of the caustic criticisms, generally you will think they are rational, and not based in spite or the contrarianism of Armond White. My friend thinks any disagreement with your opinion is tantamount to a diss.

So, we decided to send you the links and pertinent comments, and let you decide. A steak dinner is riding on your decision!

  Note how Tor even resorts to the word ‘feel’ subconsciously, rather than stating ‘Schneider thinks,’ or even ‘Schneider claims.’ These are the little tell-tale signs that Tor suffers from the same ills as many others. What follows are Tor’s selections of my essays where Ebert is mentioned, minus the accompanying photos from Ebert’s blog.

First, the two middle of the road comments by Schneider:
Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver"
Roger Ebert is perhaps the most famous film critic in America. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his writing. It should be noted, however, that that award was for the writing, not his analytical skills. What separates Ebert from most published critics is that he is better with words than most. A dozen or more of his reviews are classics whose words stick with me to this day, such as his review of Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, which ends this way:

"Taxi Driver" is a hell, from the opening shot of a cab emerging from stygian clouds of steam to the climactic killing scene in which the camera finally looks straight down. Scorsese wanted to look away from Travis's rejection; we almost want to look away from his life. But he's there, all right, and he's suffering."

This is a terrific piece of writing. Yet, Ebert is notoriously dense. He thinks that Steven Spielberg is a great filmmaker, and has panned many great films while praising schlock from the above mentioned hack, as well as the "Star Wars" films, and many other Hollywood junk fare, even as he recognizes, say, both the greatness and cultural relevance of the" Up Series" of Michael Apted. In short, his longtime partner, Gene Siskel, who never quite had Ebert's way with words, nonetheless understood the art of film far more deeply, and, while not a better writer, was certainly a better critic.

  This bit on Taxi Driver actually opens my review of Gates Of Heaven, quoted below, which continues:

Errol Morris's "Gates of Heaven"

Schneider's review of "Gates of Heaven.".
This fatal shortcoming is nowhere more evident than in Ebert's infamous DVD blurb about Errol Morris's 1978 documentary about pet cemeteries, "Gates Of Heaven" (not to be confused with Michael Cimino's monumental Western film flop "Heaven's Gate"), which declares this film one of the top ten films of all time. Not one of the top ten documentaries of all time, but films! Hell, it's not even close to being as good a film nor documentary as Morris's later "The Thin Blue Line" nor "The Fog Of War." Perhaps this was just a young critic trying to make his mark. But, the evidence for Ebert's making outrageously dumb proclamations is long. One might argue this is a solid to good documentary, and that it even is an important one, for its portrait of weirdos unleashed a flood of documentaries, in the near three decades since, about losers, wackos, and society's castoffs, as if there was some great significance to cultural failure.

  Then this:

Oliver Hirschbiegel's "Downfall"
Schneider's review of "Downfall."
Critic-at-large, Roger Ebert, rightly took Denby to task for his puerility, stating, "I do not feel the film provides 'a sufficient response' to what Hitler actually did,' because I feel no film can, and no response would be sufficient." But, after such a concise summation, he then adds, of Hitler, "He was skilled in the ways he exploited that feeling, and surrounded himself by gifted strategists and propagandists, but he was not a great man, simply one armed by fate to unleash unimaginable evil."

This is a remark clearly mindful of Louis Farrakhan's claims, a few years back, that Hitler was a "great man," that unleashed a firestorm, but it is also logically self-defeating, and shows that Ebert is not only not a student of history, but much better in phrasing words than thinking out their logical consequences. Hitler did not merely waltz onto the world stage, and have everything fall into his lap- from admirers to world events. He had a precise blueprint, aka Mein Kampf, worked for years perfecting his "craft," demagoguery, and actively shaped his future. He came within two or three bad decisions of wiping out Eurasian Jewry, and even more minorities, as well as the colonial powers of Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. Like it or not, Hitler was a great man, as were Stalin and Mao, and Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great before them. Mass murderers all, but all great, as long as one is mindful that great does not only mean 'good' nor 'decent,' and that great men also can have great flaws.

  Clearly, this is one of those times Ebert was thinking of where I was clearly correct about his opinion, as later on in the comments Ebert admits that great is not a measure of goodness. But, these comments are all fair, and likely do split the difference. In fact, that even Tor and his pal concede that I am 50-50 on negative and positive comments only adds to the proof that I am….drum roll, please….eminently fair.

  We then get six positive claims:

Now, the six positive comments:

Alex Proyas's "Dark City"
Schneider's review of "Dark City."
Film critic Roger Ebert, who is often oblivious to narrative pluses and minuses, is well known for having declared "Dark City" 1998's best film. I would likely give that to Terrence Malick's "The Thin Red Line" (at least for American releases), but he is correct when he notes the influence of American painter Edward Hopper on the film, as well as this observation: "Notice an opening shot that approaches the hotel window behind which we meet Murdoch. The window is a circular dome in a rectangular frame. As clearly as possible, it looks like the 'face' of Hal 9000 in 2001. Hal was a computer that understood everything, except what it was to be human and have emotions. Dark City considers the same theme in a film that creates a completely artificial world in which humans teach themselves to be themselves."

The shot may not be a direct quotation from the Kubrick masterpiece, but it does echo my earlier claim that both this film and The Strangers are thoroughly drenched in the cinema of the 20th Century, and seem to have recreated the city in their idée fixee of cinema realities past.

Samuel Fuller's "The Big Red"
Schneider's review of "The Big Red One: The Reconstruction."

Yet, this film is not supposed to be about war, itself, as a subject, but the men who fight those wars. All great films focus on characterization, even if obliquely. It's why a film like "Saving Private Ryan" fails, and this one succeeds brilliantly. In ending his review of the original film's release in 1980, film critic Roger Ebert wrote:

"While this is an expensive epic, he hasn't fallen to the temptations of the epic form. He doesn't give us a lot of phony meaning, as if to justify the scope of the production. There aren't a lot of deep, significant speeches. In the ways that count, "The Big Red One" is still a B-movie -- hard-boiled, filled with action, held together by male camaraderie, directed with a lean economy of action. It's one of the most expensive B-pictures ever made, and I think that helps it fit the subject. A war movies are about War, but B war movies are about soldiers."

In many ways, Ebert is correct, at least about the original film. But, in the restored version we do get some speechifying, especially by the lone main German character, Sergeant Schroeder (Siegfried Rauch), who shadows Marvin's character throughout the war. It's a key role that was butchered in the original, but serves a vital purpose in humanizing the enemy in any war. We learn much about the German sergeant in his small scenes, and while he is not likable, he is certainly explicable.
Michael Apted's "The Up Series"

Schneider's review of "The Up Series.".

It is a rare synchronicity that finds me in agreement with American pop film critic Roger Ebert. Usually, he shows no real understanding of the role good writing plays in filmmaking, and routinely praises the use of clichés, such as the tripe of Steven Spielberg and other Hollywood fare. However, when he declared The Up Series of documentary films, by Michael Apted, now out on DVD, "an inspired, almost noble use of the film medium, Apted penetrates to the central mystery of life," I not only concur, but almost forgive him for recommending Saving Private Ryan. I said almost, now.

"Yosihiro Ozu's "Story of Floating Weeds" and "Floating Weeds"

Schneider's review of Ozu's two "Floating Weeds" films..

...the commentary for "Floating Weeds," by famed film critic Roger Ebert, by contrast, is outstanding, and far better. Ebert's years in front of a television camera have taught him how to perfect a conversational tone so that you feel he's whispering into your ear at a movie theater. He is knowledgeable, with a broader knowledge of film, in general, than Richie, and never gets too discursive nor too far afield from what is in front of the viewer. He also eschews the fellatric sort of commentary that too many film stars and filmmakers reflexively fall into. Were his actual written film reviews as incisive as his commentaries on the DVDs (such as "Citizen Kane" or "Dark City") he has done, he would rank as the top published film critic around, not merely the most famous. Unlike Richie, Ebert never delves in to masturbatory film school minutia nor theory. Instead, he debunks much of it that Ozu's work embodies the opposite of, and talks about Ozu's use of "pillow shots," which, as mentioned, are stylistically beautiful shots that do not advance a story, but merely allow the viewer a moment's aesthetic rest between the dramatic situations. This contrasts greatly with the Hollywood obsession with having merely everything advance the action of the film.

  It is bizarre that Ebert misspells Ozu’s name, but other than that, these are all certainly positive comments.

Alan J. Pakula's "All the President's Men"

Schneider's review of "All the President's Men."

Roger Ebert, the famed film critic, probably framed the film's problem best when he wrote:

"All The President's Men" is truer to the craft of journalism than to the art of storytelling, and that's its problem. The movie is as accurate about the processes used by investigative reporters as we have any right to expect, and yet process finally overwhelms narrative- -we're adrift in a sea of names, dates, telephone numbers, coincidences, lucky breaks, false leads, dogged footwork, denials, evasions, and sometimes even the truth....yet they don't quite add up to a satisfying movie experience. Once we've seen one cycle of investigative reporting, once Woodward and Bernstein have cracked the first wall separating the break-in from the White House, we understand the movie's method. We don't need to see the reporting cycle repeated several more times just because the story grows longer and the sources more important. For all of its technical skill, the movie essentially shows us the same journalistic process several times as it leads closer and closer to an end we already know. The film is long, and would be dull if it weren't for the wizardry of Pakula, his actors, and technicians. What saves it isn't the power of narrative, but the success of technique."

Exactly. The real stars of the film are not Redford and Hoffman, but its music editor- David Shire, film editor, Robert L. Wolfe, but most especially its cinematographer, the great Gordon Willis.

John Boormann's "Deliverance"

Schneider's review of "Deliverance."

Many strains of its themes can be seen in other "river" films as diverse as "Aguirre: The Wrath Of God," "Apocalypse Now," "Stand By Me," "A River Runs Through It", and "Mean Creek." With the exception of the last film (a teen version of Deliverance), all of the rest of the films avoid propulsion by the Dumbest Possible Action. That so few critics, then or now, recognized this fact is typical. I was ready to say amazing or appalling, but who am I kidding? It would have been amazing had more recognized what a crock the film serves up. One of the few that did, surprisingly, was the Chicago Sun-Times' often stolid film critic Roger Ebert, who wrote:

"Dickey, who wrote the original novel and the screenplay, lards this plot with a lot of significance--universal, local, whatever happens to be on the market. He is clearly under the impression that he is telling us something about the nature of man, and particularly civilized man's ability to survive primitive challenges....But I don't think it works that way....What the movie totally fails at, however, is its attempt to make some kind of significant statement about its action....Dickey has given us here is a fantasy about violence, not a realistic consideration of it. It's possible to consider civilized men in a confrontation with the wilderness without throwing in rapes, cowboy-and-Indian stunts and pure exploitative sensationalism."

Exactly. Ebert does not mention the Dumbest Possible Action trope because the term had yet to be coined, but the film is pure fantasy.

  Again, I am quite fair, and spot-on. Now, the supposedly negative comments I made on Ebert’s opinions (not the man):

Finally, the six negative comments:

Woody Allen's "Stardust Memories"
Schneider's review of "Stardust Memories".
"The movie begins by acknowledging its sources of visual inspiration. We see a claustrophobic Allen trapped in a railroad car (that's from the opening of "8½," with Marcello Mastroianni trapped in an auto), and the harsh black-and-white lighting and the ticking of a clock on the sound track give us a cross-reference to the nightmare that opens Ingmar Bergman's "Wild Strawberries." Are these the exact scenes Allen had in mind? Probably, but no matter; he clearly intends "Stardust Memories" to be his 8½, and it develops as a portrait of the artist's complaints."

This paragraph opens Ebert's review, and in it he already summarizes the gripes I mention, and negatively biases an astute film lover against the film. While the reference to the Fellini opening is apt, the Bergman comparison is not, as the scenes do not match up. It's about as apt as comparing any sci-fi space opera's shots of a spaceship cruising along as an homage to the scene in "2001: A Space Odyssey" where we first see the ship Discovery One. It's a generic comparison that aims to imply that there is nothing original in the scene, and doubly so. Then we get Ebert's further linkage of Allen's films with the overarching posit of Fellini's film, as "a portrait of the artist's complaints." Yet, as the film progresses, we see that Allen's film is nothing like that. In fact, whereas Fellini's film ends resignedly, with life never able to equal art, Allen's film ends utterly positively, portraying the total triumph of art over life, in its ability to supplement and better it.

Ebert then claims the film is yet another reworking of Allen's relationships with women, as earlier films like "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan" were, but he does not see that this is only superficially so. "Stardust Memories" uses the main character's sexual relations merely as a device to propel a deeper introspection that his earlier films barely touch upon. Ebert writes:

"The subjects blend into the basic complaint of the Woody Allen persona we have come to know and love, and can be summarized briefly: If I'm so famous and brilliant and everybody loves me, then why doesn't anybody in particular love me?"

Yet, the main character has love and adulation aplenty, both in private and public, so Ebert is really missing out on the very antithesis of this film's essence--which is the art-- and what it can lead to, not the things it can bring: love, sex, fame, etc.

Then Ebert goes on into an astonishing misreading of the film:
"At the film seminar, the Allen character is constantly besieged by groupies. They come in all styles: pathetic young girls who want to sleep with him, fans who want his autograph, weekend culture vultures, and people who spend all their time at one event promoting the next one they're attending. Allen makes his point early, by shooting these unfortunate creatures in close-up with a wide-angle lens that makes them all look like Martians with big noses. They add up to a nightmare, a nonstop invasion of privacy, a shrill chorus of people whose praise for the artist is really a call for attention. Fine, except what else does Allen have to say about them? Nothing. In the Fellini film, the director-hero was surrounded by sycophants, business associates, would-be collaborators, wives, mistresses, old friends, all of whom made calls on his humanity. In the Allen picture, there's no depth, no personal context: They're only making calls on his time."

Well, this is true, only to an extent, and the reason for it is thus: the lead in the Fellini film (Marcello Mastroianni) was a damaged and unwhole individual, whereas the lead in the Allen film (Allen) is not. It is all the other people, about him, who are leeching off of him precisely because he "has it together" and they do not. In other words, Ebert simply does not like the situation Allen presents because he sees a superficial resemblance to the Fellini film, and is unable to grasp that Allen's aim is not a repetition of Fellini's, but a subversion of it, while going well beyond it. Mastroianni's character's friends do make calls on his humanity, but because the film clearly shows it's an area the character may be lacking in--for he his a definite narcissist and a borderline sociopath. The Allen character is neither of these things. He is a great artist within the world of Allen's film, evidenced by the snippets of that character's films we see, whereas the bits of the Mastroianni character's films we see are clearly something which makes one question is that character really still 'has it.'
Ebert's 'analysis' then totally derails, likely because of his utter misreading of the film because he did not get, or, more likely, did not "like" its aims:
"What's more, the Fellini character was at least trying to create something, to harass his badgered brain into some feeble act of thought. But the Allen character expresses only impotence, despair, uncertainty, discouragement. All through the film, Allen keeps talking about diseases, catastrophes, bad luck that befalls even the most successful. Yes, but that's what artists are for: to hurl their imagination, joy, and conviction into the silent maw. Sorry if I got a little carried away."

First, the Allen character is trying to create a film--the one that opens "Stardust Memories," and it seems a good one. His main interior angst, as a character, is that studio heads take the film away and butcher it. We see his creation goes well beyond the Mastroianni character's, yet Ebert's total lack of mentioning this is odd. Well, not really, since, as we read earlier, he sees the whole arc and point of the film as a rehash of earlier Allen works: "The basic complaint of the Woody Allen persona we have come to know and love, and can be summarized briefly: If I'm so famous and brilliant and everybody loves me, then why doesn't anybody in particular love me?"

So, if Ebert cannot even get that correct, is it any wonder that he, and many even lesser critics, so totally botched their critiques of this great film? And, Ebert shows he has a basic and fundamental misunderstanding of what art is and what purpose it serves when he writes: "but that's what artists are for: to hurl their imagination, joy, and conviction into the silent maw." Not even his apology can excuse Ebert's blunder. Art merely illumines the wisdom of life by condensing it from ponderous philosophy into forms that are simultaneously more accessible to the more intuitively intellectual aspects of the mind, while achieving this via satisfying the emotional aspects of the self that desire entertainment. Ebert's definition buys into the Joseph Campbellian Heroic Artist Hokum that has long been disproved.

Ebert continues:

"Stardust Memories" inspires that kind of frustration, though, because it's the first Woody Allen film in which impotence has become the situation rather than the problem. This is a movie about a guy who has given up."

Apparently he did not watch the last two minutes of the film which totally and utterly subverts Ebert's claim, which, itself, is based on the fallacy that the film depicts impotence--yet another example of Ebert trying to link the film to earlier film's in the Allen canon, but without any rationale for it, save his own misreading.

He ends his review thus:

"Stardust Memories is a disappointment. It needs some larger idea, some sort of organizing force, to pull together all these scenes of bitching and moaning, and make them lead somewhere."

As stated, the larger idea is utterly missed by Ebert, because he commits the one fundamental flaw of criticism from which there is no recovery nor pardon: he has reviewed not the work of art that the artist has presented, but a work of art that the critic has hoped that the artist has presented, thus finding flaws not in the art itself, but in what the art is not. It is like criticizing an elephant for not having a long neck like a giraffe because the zoo guide went from the giraffe cage to the elephant cage, and told the zoogoers that the elephant was the larger animal, meaning in mass, whereas the critic took it "larger" to mean simply "taller." As one can easily see, when such a thing occurs, the fault lies not with the zoo guide, nor his words, but with the inapt expectations of the zoogoer. See how difficult it is for great art to emerge when dealing with Lowest Common Denominator expectations and minds?

  Really, this is negative, but am I wrong? Really, I am dead on about the film and Ebert’s misreading, and devastatingly use Ebert’s ‘own words’ to portray his bias. Negative, but fair, devastating, and correct.

Michael Curtiz's "Casablanca"

Schneider's review of "Casablanca."
By contrast, the other commentary, by film critic Roger Ebert, is his usual quality commentary. What makes it good is not that Ebert has such insights, for he repeats much of what Behlmer imparts, but he has a love for the film, and scene specific comments that illuminate things a casual viewer might miss. As I've stated before, Ebert has serious limitations as a serious critic of film, but he is eminently qualified as a film historian.

The reason for this is because Ebert is too emotionally dependent in his critiques; of the thousands of reviews he's written, you can certainly point to a few dozen, maybe a hundred or two, that are gems--well written (and, let's face it, the man won his Pulitzer for his wordsmithing, not his critical skills) and insightful about the film and its aspects. But, the truth is that that is an example of dart tossing. Toss enough darts, even backward, and over your shoulder, and a few bull's-eyes will emerge. And dart tossing is just randomness, it's not an intellectual critical facility that's replicable. When he is detached and objective, Ebert will make a good technical comment about the left to right movement of a scene following Louie and Rick into Rick's office, when he needs to get money from the safe, and the camera's eliding a wall that reappears just moments later, even though, in reality, this would be impossible. But, much too often Ebert lets his emotions get the better of him, such as in some inanely embarrassing burblings about Ingrid Bergman, where he focuses on Bergman's lips, as if they had any bearing on her acting in certain scenes.

The worst (or best) example of Ebert's emotionalism actually comes from his own mouth, near the end of the commentary, when he discourses on "Casablanca's" place in film history. He compares it to "Citizen Kane," and concludes that the Welles film is the superior work of art, but that Casablanca is the superior entertainment (a view which, despite all the disagreements I have with Ebert on this and other films, I share). As a corollary, he attempts to define what a classic film is, and concludes that a classic is a film one could not bear never seeing again. Note, that his definition is a wholly emotional and subjective one. Compare that with the definition of a great film (or any work of art) as something that successfully engages and enriches the mind and aesthetics through the excellence of its construction and/or performance.

Note, that while there is some subjectivity in how well such a thing will affect different individuals, there is an objectivity in the ways the construction and/or performance can be measured. But, Ebert's biggest sin, in this commentary, aside from his near fetishism over Bergman's bodily parts, is his constant denigration and misassesment of the acting of Paul Henreid. More than once, Ebert states how he does not "like" the character of Victor Laszlo, and how he "likes" Rick Blaine, despite Victor's superior resume as a man. These emotionally biased likes and dislikes then lead into Ebert's assigning character traits and flaws to the two that are simply not in the film, but merely Ebert's justifications for his biases. Even worse, Ebert admits to not particularly liking the actor, Paul Henreid, although he gives no reasons (although one suspects that he is simply not Humphrey Bogart). This dislike, in turn, leads to equating the stiffness of the character of Victor with the acting performance of Henreid, which, as I have argued and shown, is a false equation. Despite these flaws, though, Ebert's commentary is significantly better than Behlmer's.

  I would actually put this on the fence. I both praise Ebert generally, while damning his specific comments, so really I am 7-5-2 pro-Ebert, as a general positive trumps a few specific negatives. And Ebert’s basic defense of the film comes down to his lust for Ingrid Bergman. That’s certainly fine for him, but it has no critical heft, and his later use of a photo of Bergman to end his post is Ebert’s de facto tip of the hat to me that he recognizes his arguments hold no water; a cession of an intellectual defense of the film.

Theodoros Angelopoulos' "Ulysses' Gaze"

Schneider's review of "Ulysses' Gaze."

The film came in second at the Cannes Film Festival that year, winning the Grand Prix, not the Palm D'Or, but it has taken a beating from some critics. In this country, the most virulent review came from none other than that noted lover of Spielbergian tripe, Roger Ebert, who among other things, wrote:

"What's left after 'Ulysses' Gaze' is the impression of a film made by a director so impressed with the gravity and importance of his theme that he wants to weed out any moviegoers seeking interest, grace, humor, or involvement....It is an old fact about the cinema- known perhaps even to those pioneers who made the ancient footage A is seeking- that a film does not exist unless there is an audience between the projector and the screen. A director, having chosen to work in a mass medium, has a certain duty to that audience. I do not ask that he make it laugh or cry, or even that he entertain it, but he must at least not insult its good will by giving it so little to repay its patience. What arrogance and self-importance this film reveals."

Would that Ebert was so assertive about the vomit that the many Hollywood schlockmeisters he praises put out. Yes, this film is not a laugh riot, but there are some humorous moments, such as Keitel's interactions with an old Albanian woman he lets share a Greek cab with him. As for grace, interest, and involvement? Well, it's there, even if it requires a bit of intellectual cogitation on the part of a viewer, something that most Americans (and American critics) are unwilling to give.
Abbas Kiarostami's "Taste of Cherry"

Schneider's review of "Taste of Cherry.".

Even Roger Ebert, whose film criticisms are as scattershot as any critic's I have ever read, grew tired of Kiarostami's seeming game playing with the audience:

"....I am not impatiently asking for action or incident. What I do feel, however, is that Kiarostami's style here is an affectation; the subject matter does not make it necessary, and is not benefited by it. If we're to feel sympathy for Badhi, wouldn't it help to know more about him? To know, in fact, anything at all about him? What purpose does it serve to suggest at first he may be a homosexual? (Not what purpose for the audience- what purpose for Badhi himself? Surely he must be aware his intentions are being misinterpreted.) And why must we see Kiarostami's camera crew- a tiresome distancing strategy to remind us we are seeing a movie? If there is one thing 'Taste Of Cherry' does not need, it is such a reminder: The film is such a lifeless drone that we experience it only as a movie."

While I disagree with Ebert's overall rejection of the total film, and his claim re: the homosexuality gambit, his anger over the breaking of the fourth wall is justified, as is his claim of affectation, even if I do not feel the film is a lifeless drone. Ebert also disseminates the tale that Kiarostami filmed 'Taste Of Cherry' with himself asking non-actors to bury him, thus why we do not see Badii in the same shots with the others. But, this fact is disputed by other critics of the film.
Sam Peckinpah's "Straw Dogs"

Schneider's review of "Straw Dogs."
Even the powerful Roger Ebert muffed his criticism of the film. While he correctly thought it one of Peckinpah's weaker films, especially in relation to "The Wild Bunch," his reasons were unfathomable. He wrote: "The most offensive thing about the movie is its hypocrisy; it is totally committed to the pornography of violence, but lays on the moral outrage with a shovel."

The very thing that sticks out about the film is that it is amoral. The characters are shown doing crazy and violent things and little consequence is shown. That is not hypocrisy, it is anarchy.
Alfred HItchcock's "Vertigo"

Schneider's review of "Vertigo."
In this film's 1950s universe most problems are solved by taking a swig of alcohol, preferably brandy. Failing that solution, there are quacks who provide the most inane diagnoses possible. When Midge is done visiting the mute Scottie in the asylum, she stops in at his doctor's office, to see what her ex's condition is. Is she told anything profound? No, the diagnosis is the manifest sort that any thinking person over the age of twelve could reasonably give. The doctor informs her that Scottie is suffering from that pseudoscientific catchall, melancholia, as well as a guilt complex. Wow, Doc. It took how many years in college to come up with this sort of insight? Then, when Midge tells the doctor that Scottie was also in love with the woman that 'died', the doctor's profound retort is that such a fact 'complicates the problem.' I guess he never spoke with his patient, nor even looked into any of the facts surrounding his case? Yet, even a critic as renowned as Roger Ebert wholly misses this huge and fatal flaw in the film, instead rhapsodizing like this:

"There is another element, rarely commented on, that makes 'Vertigo' a great film. From the moment we are let in on the secret, the movie is equally about Judy: her pain, her loss, the trap she's in. Hitchcock so cleverly manipulates the story that when the two characters climb up that mission tower, we identify with both of them, and fear for both of them, and in a way Judy is less guilty than Scottie."

Uh....no. Absolutely not. This is like the BS that some critics spew that this film was somehow 'confessional', and that Hitchcock was deconstructing his own real or imagined misogyny. Had the audience been left guessing about whether or not Judy was 'Madeline', it would have been far more effective. This would have truly pulled the viewer into Scottie's world--much more so than the visual razzle-dazzle Hitchcock uses to show Scottie recalling 'Madeline' when he kisses Judy. Of course, this is assuming we do suspend the disbelief that Judy could ever be such a perfect doppelganger for 'Madeline', without actually being her. Once the audience knows that Scottie knows what we do, that he is correct about Judy's role in his fate, there is no dramatic tension, in the thriller sense, and we can only be left to guess how Judy will get her comeuppance- be it by death or the law.

  So, there we go. All eminently fair, and, in reality, I am even more favorable to Ebert than Tor and his pal claim. It is important to recall this fact when viewing many of the comments the post generated, in which I am basically crucified for daring to get ‘uppity’ with Ebert. The piece ends with Tor’s close:

To end this email, I submit it to you. My friend thinks that Schneider is just another Armond White, that he is a contrarian and merely envious at your financial and public success. I disagree. I think Schneider is hard on you (perhaps a little too hard, although he is much harder on other critics). I also feel that, unlike Armond White, Schneider is consistent (almost maddeningly so) in his logic. He just seems more controversial than White, but when you read him he's a lot saner and deeper

My friend now refuses to even read Schneider's opinions, but I think he's in a snit because Schneider does not revere you as a god. Reading Schneider's reviews has made me rethink what I know and get from film.

So, we leave it to you. A steak dinner is in the balance. Do you think Schneider is a contrarian Armond White clone or is he more like Gene Siskel, a cerebral critic first and foremost, whereas you are an emotion-first critic?

  Ebert’s reply, and note the class and self-effacement he has, and compare that to his motley band of sycophants that follows in the comments:

I suggest you buy one of those big T-bones and share it.

Dan Schneider is observant, smart, and makes every effort to be fair. I would agree that I am a more emotion-driven critic than Siskel or Schneider, and indeed many others. My reviews usually include a reflection of how I felt during a film, since film itself is primarily an emotional, not a cerebral, medium. For example, although like most everybody I found "Triumph of the Will" evil, I also lingered on how boring it was. If you're not comfortable sitting through a film, what can you easily get from it?

  Ebert never expounds on why he feels film is emotion centered. Most folk I know, who discuss a film, do so on specific reasons (i.e.- objective [intellectual] points one can agree or not on)- this character was weak, the dialogue was good, the cinematography was bad, the sets were cheap, etc. Yes, most people conflate such terms such as ‘like’ or ‘’hate’ but when you delve deeper, almost all people are clearly moved, one way or another, intellectually, first. There are exceptions, like tearjerkers, but they are that: exceptions.

I must say I still agree with my opinions as quoted by Schneider, and I conclude he is more analytical and less visceral that I am. Readers find critics who speak to them. What is remarkable about these many words is that Schneider keeps an open mind, approaches each film afresh, and doesn't always repeat the same judgments. An ideal critic tries to start over again with every review.

There are three things on which we adamantly disagree. (1) I do not have a broader film knowledge than Donald Richie, and Schneider may be the only person who has ever thought so. (2) I disagree with his dismissal of Spielberg. The man who made "E.T." is not a schlockmeister purveying tripe. (3) The third is Ingrid Bergman, and my "burblings" about her lips. A critic who doesn't acknowledge the role of her face and presence in a "Casablanca" will, I fear, date just about anybody. Our critical differences I leave to you. I invite you to continue your discussion in the Comments below.

In the matter of Ingrid Bergman, I offer the final word to Miss Bergman.

  Therein, again, the de facto cession of the argument. But note how Ebert starins to get that first disagreement. I think most folks who have heard Richie’s and Ebert’s commentaries would agree with me, and it’s not even close. Ebert conflates knowledge with a plain recitation of factoids, something Richie excels at. But, as Siskel got film more than Ebert, so does he understand the art more than Richie. Now, on to the comments, or as Mistah Kurtz would opine, ‘The horror, the horror….’.


The Comments


  Before I delve into the ‘meat’ of the comments, let me preface this by stating that I have received a number of emails from people who have told me that some of their posts pro-me, especially early on, were filtered out and not posted. Later on, you will read that Ebert admits tht he alone edits his blog. So, I do not have any idea why certain posts would have been deleted or not posted. Perhaps they were over the line, in some manner (as were likely some posts anti-me), perhaps they were ‘lost,’ but I doubt Ebert diabolically set out to censor his blog into an anti-Schneider rantfest. But, even if he was doing that, it’s his blog, and he has the right to censor whatever he chosses, for the reasons he chooses. Similarly, I have chosen to respond to the post on my Cinemension blog, and here, rather than commenting in the body of the threads, because my experience told me that my comments would have drawn me into circular arguments with idiots who simply are unpersuadable to reason. It’s why I feel that comments on blogs are, generally, 99.9% counterproductive.

  Having said that, here is the first of the over 550 comments, and, in the first 350-400 or so, there is a clear anti-Schneider bias, exhibited by Ebert readers, sycophants, and just plain morons. After the first few weeks, though, the comments start taking a definite turn into both more pro-Schneider comments, and more in depth reasoning, as the posts take on the tenor of a general chatroom on film rather than being specifically tied to the post’s claims. The first post, however, seems favorable:

By Craig Nicholas on December 10, 2009 12:51 AM

This is an amazing read... that's all I summon for now

  Then we get the usual type of stolidity most blogs engender, which makes Ebert’s blog’s claim of getting comments the rest of the online world envies, ring hollow. After all, idiocy, be it sycophantic and not sociopathic, is not good:

By Michael Hughes on December 10, 2009 1:13 AM

I almost immediately disregard a film critic who dismisses films and filmmakers using meaningless terms like "Hollywood tripe". Anyone who so flippantly dismisses the rich history as well as the occasional contemporary triumphs that come from the Hollywood film industry is a critic that is necessarily an overly elitist snob who doesn't understand the cultural and social importance of film. Just because the vast majority of films Hollywood produces are uninteresting and formulaic doesn't mean that films like "Schindler's List" aren't important aesthetically, culturally and historically.

  Let’s flip that rationale. How can anyone seriously consider that Hollywood is making contemporary triumphs? Like Crash or Brokeback Mountain? And, to top it off, he selects the mawkish, trite, and mind-numbingly bad and banal Schindler’s List, as if to prove the point that he is.…an idiot!

  After a silly post, we get this:

By Gary in Phoenix, Arizona on December 10, 2009 1:33 AM

Sir, you might be cutting Mr. Schneider a little too much slack, in your effort to look at what he says objectively. His tone is one of one on high, and his tendency is to condescend, and to deconstructively faultfind. Sometimes I agreed with his assessment of a film vs. yours, as seeing STRAW DOGS as anarchic, but even as I agreed with him his approach reminded me of that GAMES PEOPLE PLAY game called "Now I've Got You, You Son of a Bitch." His phrase "even lesser critics" I found well-nigh unforgivable; heartlessly grandstanding. Asterisk him, I say!

(Just one man's opinion, but I thought both of you were wrong about DELIVERANCE. With book and movie both I thought there was a primal-fear taproot being tapped; that there was a powerful demonstration that the worst evil is the unexpected, random evil; that the story was told convincingly and well.)

One more thing: that he would fulcrumize you fourteen different times evinces the shadow you cast.

  It’s almost funny that Gary would write, ‘His tone is one of one on high, and his tendency is to condescend, and to deconstructively faultfind,’ then ends his post trying to show off his wan vocabulary: ‘that he would fulcrumize you fourteen different times evinces the shadow you cast.’ Most people hang themselves, don’t they? But he does get the fact for why I do reference Ebert vs., say, Jeffrey Lyons, something even dumber commenters do not. Then, the sycophancy starts, even though the referenced item is a de facto admission on Ebert’s part that he’s lost the battle:

By Andy G. on December 10, 2009 1:40 AM


Gracious and open comments on your part, as always... and the "final word" photograph--so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes.

Andy G.

  Tears? Then on to the faux intellectual:

By Ronak M Soni on December 10, 2009 1:51 AM

Schneider seems to have forgotten an important concept: subjectivity. Rather than attack you for things that 'aren't there' in the movies, he should instead ask why you saw them. while it may be true that you are a scatterbrained idiot, it serves no purpose to anyone, including Schneider, to just dismiss you as so rather than argue it out. Of course, he doesn't have time to do it in his reviews, but he should probably publish an essay on his website detailing them.

That said, I have to admit that I attribute much of my knowledge of film to reading too many of your reviews. In July I was stuck with nothing to do except a computer whose only interesting aspect was its internet connection, and I remembered reading a review by some guy which completely changed my view on The Reader, so I went to his site and read his reviews for 10 days. This did two good things to me: I learned to trust my own emotions (don't even ask about my history of appreciation, though I should say I was regularly put too much on my guard because I realised that I was unable to dislike a movie), and I learned the need to analyse my emotions.

That said, I think that you are horrible at writing negative reviews. Instead of trying to think/write about why you thought Dead Poets' Society was gimmicky, you just said that it was. In fact, in most of your negative reviews, I don't see an attempt to understand why you reacted negatively to many of these movies (there are notable exceptions like Fight Club and Memento), rather I see a discourse on what you saw wrong after finding the movie bad. In these cases, even you forget about subjectivity (I see it surfacing many times throughout your oeuvre, more often on the blog).
The Dead Poets' Society review is like a sore thumb to me because I ended up agreeing with you.
So, I mainly treasure your positive reviews, because you show in them a love of cinema and pure emotion (I am a rather emotional viewer myself). Of course, there's also insight. (Personal favourites out of your reviews: Ikiru and The Apu trilogy - both reviews had me crying - and Disgrace - just plain beautiful) I come and read one of your reviews every time I find something confusing in a movie, because you take special pains to convey your insights without actually spoiling the movie (this last has influenced me too much, because it makes review-writing so much more fun, and even necessary).

Sorry if I sounded cruel, but I'm too good at seeing flaws for my own good. Yet, when I look back at my life, I'll see those ten days in July (yes, this year) as the most significant part of my development. From now on, I'll just be building on the legacy of that.

Specific opinions about reviews cited her
1. I agree with you on Vertigo. I watched it when I was twelve, but I remember caring about Judy.
2. I disagree about All the President's Men, which I found supremely involving till the end which was like an anti-climax.
I haven't watched any of the other movies.

Ebert: Whose reviews did you read for 10 days?

  Clearly someone who’s not read much of my criticism, for I always admit subjectivity. It’s folk like this guy who refuse to admit objectivity. He asks, ‘Rather than attack you for things that 'aren't there' in the movies, he should instead ask why you saw them.’ No, the job of a critic is not to psychoanalyze percipients of art for imbuement, but to review, analyze, and critique the art. Period. Then comes the classic weasel attempt to criticize Ebert while kissing his ass, too. Shameless. Here comes the next ridiculous meme:

By Joel Meza on December 10, 2009 1:56 AM

Wow. This guy Schneider sure spends a lot of his time writing about you, it seems.
I've never read his reviews, but I don't see his point in comparing his opinions to other critics'. If he likes reading you, good for him. And if he doesn't, then why does he keep on reading?
I know that the main reasons I like reading you are your love of language and your love of film. Of course I don't agree with you all the time (I don't keep count, by the way), but I always learn from your reviews and many times I'll get a good laugh. Still, I don't spend my time quoting you or telling people how I agree or disagree with you.
Honestly, I don't remember if I agreed more with Siskel or with you all those years I watched your show. Of course the main reason to watch was to see the two of you argue!

  14 references, out of hundreds of reviews, to the opinions of the most famed and quoted film critic of the last few decades is hardly spending an undue amount of time. After a pointless comment we get this:

By sparrowhisperer on December 10, 2009 2:12 AM

I once got into a heated debate with Dan on IMDB (we are both such losers for doing these sorts of things). One thing to be noted is that he has a fairly peculiar sense of "great" (and "greatness") that is fairly evident in his calling Hitler a "great man" along with several other curious types.

Evidently in Mr. Schneider's world, "great" is essentially defined by his conception. Nothing is "great" unless Mr. Schneider says it is. He is fairly stubborn and simple minded about this to the point of ridiculousness.

His admiration of Stardust Memories is also something incomprehensible. He thinks that it is one of his "great" movies ... of which 8 1/2 does not belong.

Curious man.

  Given that I’ve never gotten into an argument on IMDB this is merely a lie to try to make this loser seem like I am no better than he is. I’ve argued art on a number of blogs, and politics on blogs, as well, but never on IMDB, and I always use the Cosmoetica handle, or my real name. And, note how, despite many, many essays detailing the individual moments of greatness, and defining it in toto, we get the broadbrush that, despite, even these examples in the blog post, I am just as willful in making things up as this loser is. As proof, look at my defense of Stardust Memories, just quoted above, and compare this to ‘His admiration of Stardust Memories is also something incomprehensible. He thinks that it is one of his "great" movies ... of which 8 1/2 does not belong.’

  On to another trope, defending Steven Spielberg because, well, just because:

By Tyler Nance on December 10, 2009 2:16 AM

Mr. Ebert thank you for posting this...It is interesting (and quite fascinating i might add) to observe film critics cross-referencing and critiquing other critics. Dan Schneider had some helpful insights about your writing style. However, he is dead wrong about Spielberg. I love the fact that Spielberg's abilities still are able to trump and transcend the snobby diatribe of cynical film students (or critics). Furthermore, thank you for your reviews. I have been reading them weekly for over ten years, even though I am a conservative, evangelical Christian from North Carolina.

  Then a humorous tweak of Ebert:

By Greg Salvatore on December 10, 2009 2:17 AM

If only you and Schneider could do a TV show, it'd be like, well, like Siskel and Ebert.

I also agree that Spielberg doesn't make "tripe." Not only E.T., but Schindler's List and (yes, Dan Schneider) Saving Private Ryan. If you want to see tripe, go see a film by Roland Emmerich. Oh wait, didn't you give 2012 a really high review, Roger? After seeing The Day After Tomorrow (and a few other films by Emmerich--like Independence Day), I can't believe that movie could be that good. Perhaps Schneider's onto something...

  Then more asskissing:

By Anirban Banerjee on December 10, 2009 2:19 AM

I am no student of film. I have probably read more film critiques (by Ebert and others) than I have seen movies. But if films are an emotional medium (and many people who know films far more than I do agree that they are) then it is difficult to take anyone seriously after he claims Spielberg to be a schlockmeister. My mother, an middle-class Indian woman who really never had much time for hollywood was entranced by ET. I believe a director's greatness lies in his ability to ignore political and social boundaries and speak to the emotional core of his audience. Maybe Mr.Schneider is observant, smart and wise in the ways of celluloid, but is it a critic's job to lecture to the audience, or be a sort of a bridge between the audience and the art? If it is the latter, then I am afraid I am singularly unimpressed by him, and Mr.Ebert still remains the gold standard.

  Then a typically dense defense subjectivity:

By Craig Russell on December 10, 2009 2:34 AM

I don't think Roger is infallible, and I've sometimes felt his positive or negative reviews of films are based on his fixation on a relatively arbitrary point that seems to have really pleased or displeased him.

That said, I cannot imagine what would be gained by seeing film as a medium to be judged mainly by concrete and objective considerations. His "definition of a great film (or any work of art) as something that successfully engages and enriches the mind and aesthetics through the excellence of its construction and/or performance" sounds rather sterile to me.

Aristotle in the Poetics (maybe not such a bad starting point for approaches of how to critique film) talked about tragic theater in terms of its component parts and the perfection of its construction, but he also talked about the "catharsis" that the audience got from watching it--that that was its particular pleasure, the ability to go sit down and have an experience that pulled at your various emotions in order to give you some kind of release.

Perhaps this leads to a subjective standard of judgment. Why can't I just say Transformers 2 is the best movie of all time, since it made me feel emotions and I got a release at the end? A film that engages and enriches your mind, WHILE providing an emotional experience, WHILE demonstrating various types of technical perfection, is much better than one that just gives you a cheap thrill. But if you take your visceral emotional response out of the equation, what's the point?

That said, I cannot imagine what would be gained by seeing film as a medium to be judged mainly by concrete and objective considerations. His "definition of a great film (or any work of art) as something that successfully engages and enriches the mind and aesthetics through the excellence of its construction and/or performance" sounds rather sterile to me.’ Here is what can be gained, Craig: knowledge, wisdom, and pure enjoyment, for intellectual stimulation always transfers down to satisfaction on an emotional level. Cheap emotion almost never ascends to the intellect, though. So, if one wants the full monty, a great film that affects the mind is the ticket. And one that gets mind and heart at the same time is pantheon bound.

By Jerj on December 10, 2009 2:44 AM

Critics who leave out emotional response and the perspective of audience enjoyment are living in the world of academia. Cormac McCarthy may not have said anything that hasn't already been brought up in philosophical journals but that doesn't make his writing less powerful. Hoop Dreams and American Movie are amazing movies because they tell a real human story, not because they are marvels of filmsmenship.

  Yes, Jerj, I have so much in common with Academics.

By Alex on December 10, 2009 2:52 AM

"As a corollary, he attempts to define what a classic film is, and concludes that a classic is a film one could not bear never seeing again. Note, that his definition is a wholly emotional and subjective one. Compare that with the definition of a great film (or any work of art) as something that successfully engages and enriches the mind and aesthetics through the excellence of its construction and/or performance."

What on earth is "objective" about his definition? As if there is some universal truth to any film that can only be gleamed by removing emotion and subjectivity from the equation. Absurd.

  What is NOT objective about that definition, Alex? Does Schindler’s List engage the mind? Perhaps of a Down’s child, but clearly I am referncing intelligent viewers. This is where folks like Alex show their willful density and obfuscation (look’em up, kid).

By Sparrowhisperer on December 10, 2009 2:54 AM

Mr. Schneider is insightful (deeply so), obstinate, and opinionated. Frankly, one shouldn't have to ask for more from a critic.

But, Mr. Schneider as "cerebral" ... are you kidding me?

I may not be the most appreciative of Spielberg's films, but that is quite another thing from being overly dismissive of him and finding little merit in his work (I wouldn't say that most of his work is schlock).

Far too often it seems that Mr. Schneider confuses strength of character with strength of opinion. Just because one stands by one's assessment does not automatically make one a hypocrite if someone has anything nice to say as well(just because you don't like something doesn't mean that it does not have merit, duh). This then doesn't automatically throw us into an issue of "political correctness" (which I suspect is something that Mr. Schneider loves to hate).

Further, Mr. Schneider makes this ridiculous comment:

"Yet, even a critic as renowned as Roger Ebert wholly misses this huge and fatal flaw in the film ..."

And it is ridiculous because there are other flaws in the film (Hitchcock actually points out another rather major one [in HIS opinion] to Truffaut). The role of the critic isn't exactly to nit pick out all the flaws of a film. And it is obviously not the case that any flaw is the undoing of any film. The only thing we really need to care about is whether a flaw is THE undoing, which can always be made to be the case if one chooses to fixate obsessively on it.

(BTW Mr. Ebert ... enjoyed your commentary on Ukigusa. Though I think you refer to the color "red" where it might more appropriately be called "vermilion". Though not certain whether this is correct, the Japanese seem to like that word better when describing their "Torii".)

  Here are some classic Weeping Sam tropes, and for those not in the know, Weeping Sam is what Tor was, a cyberstalker I’ve intellectually bodyslammed silly (and will again touch upon in Part 2). And Sparrowhisperer is following in his footsteps by strawmanning- i.e.- claiming your opponent has claimed something they did not so one can argue against one’s own false claim because one cannot argue against the valid claim of one’s opponent: ‘Far too often it seems that Mr. Schneider confuses strength of character with strength of opinion. Just because one stands by one's assessment does not automatically make one a hypocrite if someone has anything nice to say.’ Go ahead, to any reader of this essay- find me making that claim anywhere on Cosmoetica or online. I’ve never claimed it. Strawman #2: ‘This then doesn't automatically throw us into an issue of "political correctness"’ Of course it does not throw us there, it only throws Sparrowhisperer there, because he’s the one who brought it up. And, why would one comment on me nailing a fatal flaw if, as Sparrowhisperer, claims, the film has many other flaws? Strawman #3: ‘The role of the critic isn't exactly to nit pick out all the flaws of a film. And it is obviously not the case that any flaw is the undoing of any film. The only thing we really need to care about is whether a flaw is THE undoing, which can always be made to be the case if one chooses to fixate obsessively on it.’ Again, where have I claimed that? And did he not just quote my stating the flaw was huge and fatal, thus meaning it’s far from nitpicking? Predictably, though, when I have done reviews of films that merely skimmed over minor flaws, folk like Weepy and Sparrowhisperer then turn around and claim I did not point out flaw A, B, or C. They want it both ways because all they want is to be in the same conversation as me, due to their obsessions. Then, as if to subconsciously undermine (or unconsciously prove) all he said about me actually applied to himself, Sparrowhisperer ends with this nitpicking: ‘(BTW Mr. Ebert ... enjoyed your commentary on Ukigusa. Though I think you refer to the color "red" where it might more appropriately be called "vermilion". Though not certain whether this is correct, the Japanese seem to like that word better when describing their "Torii".)’ Were it not so hilarious it would be sad. Keep them flags flyin’, Weepy, er- Sparrowhisperer!

  At least this next bozo attempts some intelligence:

By Gonçalo Fernandes on December 10, 2009 2:57 AM

Although this isn't really my discussion, as a long-time reader I felt I might leave my take on the matter.

Of Schneider's opinion of you: I agree that you are a quality writer, and that it was that that won you a Pulitzer. That is as it should be, no? I agree that you are primarily an emotional critic, as opposed to a "cerebral one". What I take issue with is the unjustified and unsupported presumption that "cerebral film criticism" is inherently superior to "emotional film criticism". From people who value critical thinking so much, I expected better that to just take these things at face value.

Also: "Note, that his definition [of a great film] is a wholly emotional and subjective one. Compare that with the definition of a great film (...) as something that successfully engages and enriches the mind and aesthetics through the excellence of its construction and/or performance."

Okay, I'll compare. The second definition (whose is it?) is also "wholly emotional" and indisputably "subjective". It's nature is merely hidden by the construction of the definition, much like a trite Hollywood epic that uses clichès to appear more significant than it is.

"there is an objectivity in the ways the construction and/or performance can be measured."

Yes, but not in the value or relevance of these measurements. It all, ultimately, comes down to values that are, in fact, subjective.

An aside about Peter Svensland's e-mail: he comes across as, well, kind of a jerk, really. Not because he likes or dislikes you, but because of the way he frames his friend's opinions and reactions as irrational fawning (all the while saying they crafted the letter together; I somewhat doubt it) while presenting his own as the product of a critical, cerebral intellect (if indeed saying of an intellect that it is cerebral is not redundant, but I hope you get my meaning).

As a conclusion, I might also leave my opinion of you. The primary reason why I read you so regularly is because of the quality of the writing. I don't always share your opinions, of course, but I like your writing. I like movies, I like reading about movies, and I like the way you write about them. I'd say I tend to relate to movies more cerebrally than emotionally, but I don't buy that one is better than the other. And what kind of cinephile doesn't appreciate a movie like Star Wars (or Raiders of the Lost Ark)? What kind of movies made them fall in love with the medium in the first place? I have an opinion about that as well, but it's too early in the morning for Pierre Bordieu and field theory, and this post is long enough.

  Note how Goncalo cherrypicks my definition of great, and tries to claim it not critical because I do not extrapolate on it. This is akin to writers who want every claim that a word or phrase or metaphor is clichéd or trite to be shown with a minimum of 50 annotated examples. In short, engage the art more. As with Weepy, he wants it both ways- if you extrapolate every time you repeat the same obvious truth, you are long-winded or obsessive. If you grant that intelligent readers will know certain things, then you are broadbrushing. Well, read above, Goncalo, where I state that emotional art rarely transcends to the mind whereas intellectual art always flows down to the heart. And REALLY think of times when you’ve experienced these two examples. You will see I am correct. Then, look at Goncalo’s defense: ‘Okay, I'll compare. The second definition (whose is it?) is also "wholly emotional" and indisputably "subjective". It's nature is merely hidden by the construction of the definition, much like a trite Hollywood epic that uses clichès to appear more significant than it is.’ A really inapt metaphor, but, more importantly, he has just chided me for my definition, claimed it unsupported, then gives his, with the support of….right, nada! He then twists in the wind: ‘"there is an objectivity in the ways the construction and/or performance can be measured." Yes, but not in the value or relevance of these measurements. It all, ultimately, comes down to values that are, in fact, subjective.’ He first admits I am correct, thus wholly negating the earlier claims, then claims the objectivity is not because….not in the value or relevance of these measurements. So, he admits objectivity, then claims that his own objectivity is subjective because, well, he cannot define it. Thus we get to that great catch-all: the fallacy of self-limits. Because Goncalo cannot transcend, no one else can transcend to objectivity. Note, reader, how in this piece, and many other essays I’ve done, all of these same tropes repeat without cessation. He then ends with a ramble on his emotions. Yawn.

  Then two small comments pro-me and anti-Ebert and me:

By suresh on December 10, 2009 3:00 AM

I think Peter Svensland's friend should pay for the dinner!

By Edward on December 10, 2009 3:00 AM

I think you deserve each other.

  Again, someone who clearly does not know how to read. I use Ebert because his opinions are routinely critically cribbed and disseminated throughout the media. His critical rape of Stardust Memories, as example, set the tone for decades of misreading about this great piece of art. If one is going to save Ahab from the Fates, then harpooning Moby-Dick is a prerqequisite.

By Ronak M Soni on December 10, 2009 3:21 AM

A more considered thought on Schneider: what sort of a critic fills up a whole review (of the Allen movie) with a refutation of some other critic? It's okay to devote a small part of your review to it, or even let a review take the form of refutation while making a bigger point, but this guy's point is to refute, nothing else. His only aim in this review is to contradict you, like he's riding on your name. Of course, if that was a blog entry, or in some other way not his primary write-up on the movie, it's fine.
The Taste of Cherry review is especially bad; his disagreement with you is a tad too mild for his article too be enriched by that answer to your review.

  If one wants to read bad writing, click on the above link to Ronak’s blog. Get ready to giggle. Speaking of subjective….Next up Joe Six-Pack:

By Paul on December 10, 2009 3:28 AM

The guy lost me with the comment about your mentioning Ingrid Bergman's lips. Is he dead from the neck down? He's certainly dead from the waist down. Yes, how preposterous of you to suggest that Ingrid Bergman's hauntingly beautiful face had any bearing on the films she was in. What nonsense.

Mr. Ebert, I began as a fan of your film criticism. That was my introduction to film criticism. I have since grown up, I have grown wiser, my taste in everything has improved, and I have had time and made the effort to seek out all manner of ways to 'take' a film - all the types of film watching and film criticizing there are. And you are still right, as you were right when I was a child. Film is an emotional medium. That's what it does, or anyway that's how it does it. I don't dismiss critics like Schneider out of hand, many of them have very interesting things to say and can teach one a great deal about a film, and filmmaking. But you get to the heart of it, and I think you understand film better. Film is not, and will never be, literature. It should not want to be. The best films do not try to be. I think the more analytical critics (and here I will do something very cheap, and ascribe a subconscious motive to people I've never met - forgive me) are, at some level, ashamed of the art form. Ashamed that it's popular, ashamed that they love it. So they try to make it something it's not, by dealing with it in a way it ought not to be dealt with (although in this at least they are still not as bad as critics of popular music, who besides being beyond help, never provide any insight at all). Film is a democratic medium, it is an emotional medium, it is not literature. The best films do not put on airs, and neither do the best critics do so on behalf of film. There is no need to apologize (and that is what strictly analytical film criticism does, really - apologize) for a medium which was good enough for the likes of Orson Welles, Marlon Brando, Ingrid Bergman, Hitchcock, Keaton, PT Anderson, and all the others. Film is not literature, but literature is not film, either, and can never do what film can do. And I thank you for appreciating film (and literature, for that matter) in the way it was meant to be appreciated.

  This idiot thinks that the fuckability of a woman bears on the art. Yes, Paul, what nonsense, you idiot! Should I ad a third ‘idiot’ for emphasis? The fReudian suggestions of a man ruled by his groin is a funny trope, though. A few more pointless comments, then this beauty on the fallacy of self-limits:

By Jim H on December 10, 2009 5:05 AM

I always find the concept of looking at film objectively, as Schneider seems to think is best, to be a mystifying proposition.

It's like trying to analyze ethics or morality. You can do it, but in the end how you feel about it takes precedence over what you discover through analysis. It's just the nature of the beast.

Looking at the above quotes, I'd also be curious what Schneider would think about a more emotionally pure film. Something like Murnau's Sunrise, which derives all its power from the elicited feelings of a simple fable put together with gorgeous images. It defies objective analysis.

  Then some more silly posts:

By Steve Locke on December 10, 2009 5:49 AM

You seem to be evolving into a sort of "ground zero" for well-crafted film commentary/discussion. One first reads your reviews. Then the blog commentaries concerning your reviews (and other musings). Then the comments about your blog entries. Then the reviews of your reviews. Then the analyses of you as a reviewer. Then your analysis of these analyses. And onwards and outwards...

Ebert: Sounds like a Borges story.

  Here is Ebert’s first comment reply. But the truth is, as I’ve said, Ebert’s reviews have been cribbed for years, as have those of the other top 5 or 6 film critics from the 1960s through 1990s. The internet has only broadened that.

By Wesley Osam on December 10, 2009 6:04 AM

Take any two critics in the world, have them trade opinions, and each will almost certainly believe the other has, to some extent, "panned many great films while praising schlock."

Schneider's opinion of Vertigo seems to be based on the assumption that the movie is a murder mystery rather than a suspense film, or a tragedy. Hitchcock once said that having a bomb blow up under a table was a surprise; letting the audience know the bomb was there while the clueless characters sat around playing cards was suspense. Revealing the murder plot was Hitchcock's way of showing the audience the bomb. At that moment, Judy becomes the protagonist, and Scotty becomes the villain. So many people hate that reveal, but if it weren't there Vertigo would have been remembered about as well as Marnie.

  But, Wesley, Judy never rises to the level of anything but a third wheel. Stop cribbing Ebert! Here, below, is an honest guy, for a change- he admits he is a sycophant, and nothing more:

By Jim T on December 10, 2009 6:41 AM

I remember reading that interview with Berardinelli. Berardinelli also believes he is more analytical than you. I agree but I don't find it neither a good nor a bad thing.

As much as I adore your writing, I don't think that's your only strength. You have the ability to spot things that others don't.

I have to be honest. I kind of disliked Schneider for what he says about you though he is not rude (a bit of arrogance is, I suppose, allowed when you are a critic. Berardinelli has said that and I mostly agree.). I'm just too emotional to accept it when someone says bad things about Ebert. As simple as that.

I remember that movie where there is Lennon and a person who worked with him and he was in love with Lennon. I don't remember the title. Well, Siskel seemed a lot more emotional than you that time. What I mean is that labels include bits of truth but no person is just one thing. It's what mood the movie evokes and perhaps even the period of your life in which you see the movie.

I wish I had debates over you with my friends. Here in Greece they no nothing about you. They don't know that they probably saw "Monster" because of you. But critics do know you and some times quote you wich is a relief for me.

  A rare early pro-Schneider view:

By Trouble on December 10, 2009 6:46 AM

Great letter, great response.

Thanks to everyone involved. I hope the steak was delicious!

  This next guy is so emotional he cannot even see how it affects his claims, even to his final use of the emotionally subjective term ‘taste’:

By jim on December 10, 2009 7:03 AM

The problem with this entire analysis, I think, is that it does not take into account the difference between a film critic and a film scholar. As such it is (and I hate to use the cliche) a comparison of apples and oranges.
Film scholars promote "important" films -- films the "average" filmgoer might find boring. Film critics, on the other hand, are addressing a mass audience, and although one who panders to the audience and praises Transformers II as a great film is useless, a critic must take into account the tastes of the mass audience. In other words, for the critic, a review is not just an evaluation of artistic merit. Personal reaction -- whether the writer enjoyed the film or not -- is also an important criteria. And Mr. Ebert makes it clear his opinions are personal reactions.
Perhaps the best way to point out the difference is by example. A film scholar will show disdain for "Star Wars," because as enormously entertaining as it is, and as revolutionary as the filmaking technology may have been, it is not an artistic breakthorugh. A film critic, however, cannot ignore its appeal. A film scolar will praise "Birth of a Nation," while a film critic must acknowledge that its brilliance must be seen in a historic context; a modern moviegoer will not be as enthralled as those who saw it on its release, because its breakthroughs have been incorprated into film language.
What Mr. Ebert does so well is straddle the two worlds. He (you?) addresses both the tastes of the mass public and the artistic merits of a work. As such, he still rejects populist junk like Transformers II, but appreciates -- in the context of what they are meant to be -- films like "Star Wars" and even "2012." In the process, he manages both to address current tastes, and to provides the advice, insight, and the occaisonal slap in the face needed to help the mass market filmgoer understand and appreciate films of higher quality. As Aaron Sorkin put it, "our job is not to pander to the lowest common denominator, but to raise it."
Academics live completely outside the mass audience.
In the same context, Mr. Schneider underestimates Mr. Ebert's "worthiness" for the Pulitzer Prize. Although he is correct in praising Ebert's writing skills, he has no business, and no right to say why the prize was awarded. I doubt the committee said, in issuing the prize, that it is for his writing ability, not his critical insights, but Mr. Schneider presents this opinion as fact.
It is important to remember that the Pulitzer is a prize for newspaper writing, not for academic scholarship. As such, Mr. Ebert's approach to film criticism happens to be perfectly consistent with the goal of a good newspaper to speak to and for the public, while at the same time informing and guiding the readers to be better citizens.
It may not sound like it, but the above is meant to be an appreciation. I believe Mr. Ebert has managed to walk what is essentially a tightrope successfully for many years, and while he occaisonally falls off (I will nurse a personal grudge by pointing to Richard Rush's "The Stunt Man") he has succeeded brilliantly, not simply compromising between the two, but reconciling them.
Even when I disagree with an Ebert review, I always learn from them.
As such, I propose that consistently agreeing with a critic is a poor reason to choose one, and an invalid criteria for judging one, as it is based on the assumption that one's own taste is "perfect."

  While there are certainly differences between scholars and critics, generally, it is a false divide. Star Wars is disdained by most scholars because it is a poor film- thin Joseph Campbellian nonsense deified as deep, even though, in all ways but special effects, the film is an inferior reworking of the sci-fi movie serials of the 1930s and 1940s: see Crabbe, Buster. The basic assumption is the anti-elitist bias that all things Lowest Common Denominator are good. They are not, just like all claimed ‘art’ that is called ‘high’ is great. One need only watch the Eurotrash of Cocteau, Bunuel, Pasolini, etc, to see that disproved, as well. Then, while saying I have no right to say why the Pulitzer was given to Ebert, Jim then claims that right he denies me for himself. Notice a solipsistic pattern to all these comments?

  But, it gets worst in the next moronic reply:

By AB in Berlin on December 10, 2009 7:05 AM

Roger - Dan Schneider does have some moments of intriguing insight, but his film reviews are frequently derailed by his unexamined aesthetic tastes - especially when it comes to female beauty. Here's how he ruins an otherwise excellent review of Vicky Cristina Barcelona:

Scarlett Johansson is again misused by Allen...Where this idea arose of her as a sex symbol is mystifying. She’s simply a rather average looking young woman...It’s truly mystifying, as Johansson simply lacks the sexual ‘It’ factor.

But, worst of all is Penelope Cruz... like Johansson, she is almost always cast as a sex bomb, despite the fact that she’s just an average looking woman and, in this film, looks scrawny, if not outright anorexic. [The] best looking female in the film, by far, is Rebecca Hall, the least known of the trio. She also is, easily, the best actress.

With those words, millions of us might be dying to know where Schneider lives, if in his world Scarlett and Penelope are "average-looking" women. Though Schneider could've made a very good point about Johnansson's lack of carnal charisma or Cruz's acting chops and left it at that, he instead let his visceral feeling that neither was very attractive become the fulcrum of the argument against their casting. This is considerably worse, in my view, than your discussion of Ingrid Bergman's lips. If you don't share Schneider's taste in women, the whole review goes rather flat.

Far more offensive, though, is how Schneider poisons his review of Deepa Mehta's "Fire":

Compounding matters, the two wannabe lesbians, Radha (Bollywood star Shabana Azmi) and Sita (Nandita Das), are drop dead gorgeous; they’re hardly ‘real-world’ lesbians along the lines of an Indian Andrea Dworkin, Rosie O’Donnell, or Ellen DeGeneres.

This is wrong in so many ways. A crude and narrow-minded stereotyping of lesbians (apparently DeGeneres's conventionally attractive wife isn't a real-world lesbian?). A puzzling cultural ignorance to the possibility that a married woman in India might style herself differently than an 'out' American lesbian celebrity. And worst of all, a complete denial of the way cinema uses constructs of beauty to engage audience empathy, especially in love stories.

And it's on that omission that I think this is important. A cerebral critic who doesn't see how many shots of "Casablanca" really are about Bergman's lips is missing at least half the point. I often disagree with you, Roger, on many films' success in hitting the "right" emotional buttons. But of all the male film critics I read I think you're the most insightful and sensitive on the subject of the female face in film. I never forgot this bit from your review of "The Squid and the Whale":

"You have too many freckles," he tells Sophie (Halley Feiffer), the girl he likes. I guess he thinks that shows he has high standards. He's so dumb he doesn't know how wonderful too many freckles are."

  Note the ellipses used in the quote of me, and also note how I say Cruz looks scrawny. In fact, I defend my assertions that neither of the stars of the Allen film are as gorgeous as claimed. There is no hint of subjectivity. AB claims: ‘Though Schneider could've made a very good point about Johnansson's lack of carnal charisma….’ Apparently not having even read his quote, where I state- note the ellipses: ‘Where this idea arose of her as a sex symbol is mystifying. She’s simply a rather average looking young woman...It’s truly mystifying, as Johansson simply lacks the sexual ‘It’ factor.’ How is what is quoted of me NOT stating Johannson lacks carnal charisma. Sexual It Factor MEANS carnal charisma! Is there any way to read AB’s post and not deduce he is a) an idiot, b) a liar, or c) both? Truly. Failing that, he tries to be offended that I rip a film for playing to the Bob Guccione-like heterosexual male fantasy of lesbianism. So, I actually rip a sexist trait in a film, and the idiot is incapable of seeing this, and gets offended. I have always said that taking offense is ALWAYS a choice on the part of the so-called offended. Here is proof, yet again. I am not stereotyping lesbians, I am ripping the filmic stereotyping of such, and AB totally misses it!

  Another pointless comment and the rare comment in my support:

By Shad on December 10, 2009 7:11 AM


Do you prefer emotion with a sprinkling of rationality, vice versa, or somewhere in between? No matter your answer, there exists somewhere a movie (and a critic) that are perfect for you.

Personally, I prefer a contrarian opinion every now and again. Disagreeing with a critic is an excellent opportunity to delve a little deeper and find out WHY you disagree with them. Besides, who wants to agree with a critic all the time? That'd be simultaneously boring and horrifying, like finding out you had more in common with Martha Stewart than you'd care to admit.

  Some more pointless comments, then this:

By Ken Adah on December 10, 2009 7:54 AM

I really enjoyed reading this, enjoyed it in the same way I enjoy watching movies that leave the audience to puzzle out what's happening instead of spoon-feeding the plot (meanwhile, here's the actual villian and THIS is what he's doing!!!). There are a lot of films up there I haven't seen; I only had what Mr. Schneider wrote to go on and I confess I struggled a bit with the logic he was presenting.

I am suddenly reminded of a conference I attended where a question came from the audience and I was aghast at myself for not being able to understand a single thing the person was saying. I took great comfort in the answer from the floor which was another variation of, "I must confess I don't know what the hell you just said..." which cracked up the room. In all humility, I must add that I might have gotten a bigger laugh with my next comment which was made with an eerily perfect imitation of Forrest Gump as I told the room, "I may not be a SMART man, but I know what. Love. Is."

So anyway.

It does, for me, highlight one of the key assertions of Mr. Schneider, who suggests that that your writing skills mask a weaker critical ability. From only the passages above, I conclude that I'd prefer reading Roger over Dan. That's not exactly right. Let me try again. I'd say it better this way: I think it's easier to read Roger. So that's not necessarily a slight against Dan. Based on what I read, I would have lots of questions for Mr. Schneider. He makes apparent to me a number of holes in my understanding and it might be a lot of fun to talk about and let him explain some of those things so that I can understand them better.

You know what I mean?

I wrote a short story (once upon a time) and a professor offered to give it to his class for to review and critique. It was a very eye-opening experience, discovering that so many students missed the whole (and to me very obvious) point of the story. I wonder how many directors and producers think that way about film critics and to the same degree how many critics think that way about other critics.

I continue to hold firm to my middle-aged philosophy : Cogito ergo um..... I think, therefore ... I'm not sure.

  More chaff, then:

By Mike Spearns on December 10, 2009 8:26 AM

Schneider: "He won a Pulitzer Prize for his writing. It should be noted, however, that that award was for the writing, not his analytical skills. What separates Ebert from most published critics is that he is better with words than most."

Schenider: "Ebert's 'analysis' then totally derails, likely because of his utter misreading of the film because he did not get, or, more likely, did not "like" its aims"

Schneider: "When he is detached and objective, Ebert will make a good technical comment.... But, much too often Ebert lets his emotions get the better of him, such as in some inanely embarrassing burblings about Ingrid Bergman, where he focuses on Bergman's lips, as if they had any bearing on her acting in certain scenes."

Schneider: "Note, that while there is some subjectivity in how well such a thing will affect different individuals, there is an objectivity in the ways the construction and/or performance can be measured."


I rarely argue with people, because 90% of arguments center around matters of opinion, not fact. At a party recently, a particularly opinionated acquaintance, upon hearing the song "Dancing Queen", responded with "Abba sucks!" A number of guests took umbrage, but, in the end, what are you gonna do? Convince him that Abba does not suck? It is his OPINION that Abba sucks. He did not need to preface his less-than-cogent argument with 'It is my opinion that..." because we are all smart enough to know it is just an opinion.

I didn't respond to the comment because the person making the point is uninteresting. If it were a friend who is well spoken, interesting, entertaining, and, yes, to some extent, knowledgeable, then I would have stayed and listened regardless of whether I agreed with the opinion. It would hold no sway at all an my opinion of Abba. At best, someone may have said "Mike, do you like Abba?" and I would have to think about why I do or don't. And as I explained my stance, others would be free to sit and listen, or move to the kitchen and discuss Tiger Woods.

My point is: criticism is opinion. To divorce it from good writing and subjectivity is to gut it. Mere analysis is boring (see Film Theory, Academic). But (not to get all 'meta' on y'all), THAT IS MY OPINION ON FILM CRITICISM. It seems Mr. Schneider does not share that opinion, and his writing style and subjectivity are inextricable in expressing that. I disagree with him, but I wouldn't walk to the kitchen for another drink if he were expressing it at a party. So he's got that going for him.

Agreeing with Roger's opinion on a given movie has never been the point of my blind, fawning dedication to his writing; it's the writing itself, and the inadvertent autobiography (i.e. subjectivity).

There is little or no chance that this thread will not dust off Roger's favorite quote re film criticism, from Robert Warshaw. Roger, if you will do the honor....

Ebert: But of course:

"A man goes to the movies. A critic must be honest enough to admit that he is that man."

Or woman, Robert, but the longer I think about that the truer it seems, and it has gotten me out of many a tight spot.

  What Mike does not get is that not all opinions are equal. I know and understand far more of film, art, and literature, than most people, but I know little of butterfly mating habits, Bulgarian politics, or the sunspot cycles of the sun, therefore I do not opine in those areas. And I do not do mere analysis, I do criticism. There is a huge difference. The Cahiers Du Cinema crowd does analysis, and it is poor analysis and writing, at that. And I’ve never claimed to be more than a man. But there are men, and then there are men, and to those who do not get the difference, they are in the first set of men.

By Cory T on December 10, 2009 8:31 AM

If only I were so fair with my critics!

  Ebert has been reading me, after all! Then, the return of the boob patrol:

By Randy Masters on December 10, 2009 8:47 AM

There is only a good Roger. Misguided at times. :) But, always good.

Ah, the mental masturbation of film critic critics is quite tedious I think. These two gentlemen need more than a steak dinner. Perhaps, a life?

Schneider: I not only concur, but almost forgive him for recommending Saving Private Ryan. I said almost, now.

This would be the kind of comment that would put critics in the category of film snobs. Useless ones at that. If a critic can not recommend Saving Private Ryan as an interesting movie to watch, he is no good to me as a barometer.

  Thus Randy wipes the drool off his chin.

Ebert: Readers find critics who speak to them


I've made this point elsewhere on this blog before, but I calibrate myself to film reviewers.

What you are helping me to do, as a film reviewer, is to make a decision to spend my limited time and dollars seeing a film or not. I make use of your intellectual content as a factor - maybe even the deciding factor - in that decision. You are a calibrated barometer. Have I, after the viewing, agreed with your recommendations more than disagreed? Then we have similar film tastes and I will regard your review in my decision to see a film. If not, not. Simple as that.

Perhaps I am making a strong distinction between film review and film criticism. I prefer a review - should I see it or not? Criticism, on the other hand, is an intellectual exercise that is "inside baseball" and not of much worth to me as a content consumer.

Your reader: Having said that, I want to admit that I usually preferred your old partner Gene Siskel's opinions to yours. When you guys disagreed I probably sided with his opinion 80-90% of the time.

I am the opposite. I always preferred your visceral, emotional, and accurate film review to Siskel's film criticism - which I always thought of as snobbery. Hands down, or thumbs up!, every time Ebert over Siskel. Does that make you a "pop culture" critic? Perhaps. Works for me, because I am a pop culture consumer. But, clearly you are more than that.

You, in the film review world, are the man. A talented writer and an accurate and useful film reviewer.

Thank you for posting the image of Miss Bergman. It is quite striking and lovely. Perhaps your two readers should spend more time appreciating that image and less engaging in the business of being a critic critic.

  Note, again, the anti-intellectualism. The real snobbery is in those, Academic or pop, who out of hand dismiss everything on the other side. I do not do that, but note how many of the commenters here do so, and revel in it. A few posts later, my point is proven….again:

By Jason Ihle on December 10, 2009 8:54 AM

I think you are being especially kind to Dan Schneider who, in the little I've read from him, seems to be a pompous intellectual ready to dismiss anyone who attempts to bring emotion into criticism.

As you say, film is primarily an emotional experience.

Fine if you don't want to criticize a film on its emotional merits, but that doesn't mean that a brand of criticism that does so is any less meaningful than one that focuses on form.

I decided to disregard Schneider when I read his opinion of subtitling vs. dubbing in which he finds dubbing to be far superior. I can't take seriously any critic who holds such an opinion. Granted, I suppose it makes some sense coming from a technical critic.

But I live in a country that dubs its films. I refuse to see them. I do, however, see quite a lot of television that is dubbed. For me the reasons dubbing is wholly inferior are numerous: 1) adults are routinely employed to dub child performances resulting in children who always sound like the child characters on The Simpsons. 2) actors have two essential tools at their disposal: their bodies and their voice. Take away one and you're left with half a performance with another half a performance from a different actor laid over the top. 3) when there is a scene in which the character(s) sing, the dubbing stops and the original actor's voice returns, creating a jarring disconnect. 4) scenes of high emotional impact sound completely unconvincing, e.g. heavy crying, strong anger, etc. I suspect the reason for this is that a voice actor in a studio can typically not conjure the appropriate emotional range to match what the original actor on set "in the moment of the character" was able to. 5) This occurred to me after a couple of years living here and is perhaps the biggest reason I find dubbing to be such garbage. The dubbing track is not melded into the sound mix for the film. This provides a real appreciation for sound mixing on a film. During action sequences you get the sense that the actors are in a different zip code to the explosions and gun shots. The dubbed track is simply laid over the top of the original mix, resulting, once again, in a jarring disconnect.

For a critic who seems to be held in such high esteem (and who seems to consider himself as such) to not recognize the inferiority of dubbing based on the aforementioned reasons is inexcusable.

Granted, subtitles make it more difficult to watch a film and it takes practice. But after time it becomes second-nature and you barely notice that you're reading anymore. Hey, try watching a film in Chinese with Spanish subtitles when your abilities with the Spanish language are good, but not close to fluent.

  Where have I ever said one cannot have emotion in criticism? The problem is when the criticism is all or mostly emotion. Love this gem: ‘I decided to disregard Schneider when I read his opinion of subtitling vs. dubbing in which he finds dubbing to be far superior. I can't take seriously any critic who holds such an opinion. Granted, I suppose it makes some sense coming from a technical critic.’ Actually, it just makes sense, period. Subtitles distract from the visuals every single time you read them. Slightly non-synched lips do not, and the use of different voices for known actors often enhances the characterization- see Ingmar Bergman’s dubbed films from the 1960s. There are certainly poorly dubbed films, but there are finely dubbed films that ENHANCE the film experience. There is not a SINGLE film experience enhanced by graffittiing words across up to 35% of the film frame. Period.

  More chaff, then this:

By Scott on December 10, 2009 9:58 AM

I think it is important to recognize that others may not share the same motivation as you when they describe an experience, a mistake that is somewhat telling when made by someone that obviously values his intellectual and analytical abilities. Schneider assumes everyone watches a movie the same way he does and then, because others do not see what he sees, assumes he is better than they.

I do not understand the value in exposing oneself to ideas based on the criteria that there is (usually) agreement. How boring and brittle.

  Yet again, show me where I ever claimed everyone should watch a movie as I do. Pure strawmanning.

By Steven Paulson on December 10, 2009 10:02 AM

Uh, I have run across Mr. Schneider in other forums. He has likened the films of John Ford to primitive cave paintings, and insists that Orson Welles must have directed The Third Man because all of Carol Reed's other movies are bad movies, and Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten were both in The Third Man. And is not going to change his mind no matter how often you point him to the actual words of the actual people actually involved in the making of the movie.

  Yet another lie. Ford as a cave painting? Yes, Welles certainly played a far larger role in The Third Man than is claimed, and yes, Cotton and Welles were in The Third Man. So, yes, Steven, thank you for reiterating good points.

  More chaff, then this:

By Jim King on December 10, 2009 10:25 AM

It seems that Schneider falls into the same trap so many people do whatever their profession. He automatically assumes that his assessment of a movie, his analysis, is the correct one. No acknowledgement that two opposing viewpoints could be equally "correct," especially since we are not talking about math proofs which are only right or wrong but about art where there are in some ways no right or wrong answers. This is why I find value in critics who have a completely different take on a movie. I do not think them necessarily wrong because I can usually see where they are coming from, how they have used reason to arrive at their conclusions.

  Clearly, anyone with intelligence reading any of the snippets quoted here, cannot state that I ‘automatically assume’ anything. Clearly I cogitate. One might claim I am merely wrong, but why finesse when broadbrushing is so fun? And two opposing viewpoints can be equally correct, on occasions. And I’ll grant and state that. But most are not even close. This next post comes from someone, I later found out, has been leeching off Ebert since he recruited her into his fold:

By Grace Wang on December 10, 2009 10:48 AM

Film is a form of art.
Art is not objective.
Art's only value lies in its emotional connection with its creators and audiences, which in most cases, are humans.

Roger Ebert is a human.
So are his audiences/readers.

Therefore, it can logically be deducted, if you accept the first five lines of this post, that Roger Ebert's reaction to films is by nature emotional, and so are those of his readers/audiences.
It can also be deducted that Roger Ebert's written expressions of his reaction will be emotion-driven.
It can also be deducted that those who choose to read Roger Ebert's reviews will be emotion-driven in their reactions, and may have done so for that very reason.

If you are capable of seperating yourself from the mass of emotional humans, good for you.
Congratulations. I'll see you in another lifetime.

Because in this one, it is my personal opinion that I'd rather read, interact, and be with emotional human beings.

Objectively yours,


  First, speak about unsupported statements. Art is a higher form of expression than the prosaic. It is the how of that expression not its content. And one deduces things, Grace, one does not deduct them. Your repetition of this miswording shows it is not a typo and you do not know what it is you speak of. Objectively yours, Dan.

By BoatlessFool on December 10, 2009 10:52 AM

I'm sorry Mr. Ebert. Dan Schneider is sophomoric in his reviews and critiques. Most of the time there seems to be an underlying sense of retaliation from him because he does not understand a film or believes he does and that he can 'see right through it'.

Read any of his critiques of Buñuel for example...

An example of one...

Yes, I destroy bad films because I do not understand their puerility. More silliness, then:

By Frank McDevitt on December 10, 2009 11:13 AM


That you can call Schneider's assessment of you and your critical faculties "fair" after seeing that he has referred to you as stolid and dense is proof that you are a gentleman.

Part of the reason why I enjoy reading Manohla Dargis, Jim Emerson, A.O. Scott, and Glenn Kenny so much is because they marry emotional reaction with keen analysis. Oddly enough I've always believed that one of your greatest strengths is your analytical nature, and to see Mr. Schneider claim that you are lacking in your critical thinking is baffling.

It would be interesting to see Schneider weigh in on this himself, although I sincerely doubt that he will.

  Feel the scale tipping yet, Franky?

By Mark Hughes on December 10, 2009 11:27 AM

I don't know how seriously I am supposed to take a film critic who argues that you commit a "blunder" in describing what art is and what it does. I know plenty of professional artists who would pretty strongly disagree with Schneider's claims about art, just as he disagreed with your claims. The point being, when you described art, you did so in explaining your perspective on it and how Allen's film fails in your assessment of art's role -- Schneider argues about your personal definition itself. If there's an inexcusable blunder in this equation, Schneider is its author.

I also am honestly rather tired of the obsessive disdain for Spielberg, or more to the point the obsessive disdain for anyone who doesn't hold obsessive disdain for Spielberg. Whatever faults one can find with this or that Spielberg film, to claim the man is just basically some sort of hack is absurd. Those making such claims tend to give off a rather pungent odor of overall myopic pseudo-intellectual posing, more concerned it seems with conforming to an image of themselves that they prefer -- one in line with their distorted notion of what makes one intelligent, critical, and a true connoisseur of fine art.

  One wonders if Mark even knows what ‘hack’ means? It means someone who employs hackneyed things in his art. Spielberg relies on stereotypes for characters, Lowest Common Denominator, Dumbest Possible Action tropes to propel the narrative, mawkish moments, trite endings, etc. Spielberg does this over and again. This does not mean Spielberg is a bad human being, merely a demonstrably bad film director. Get over it, Mark!

In short, I get a strong sense that while Schneider is a talented writer and has some interesting views about films, he is often as much concerned with "having the proper opinion" as he is with reviewing a film. This may not be a conscious choice he's making, but I think the influence is clearly there.

  There is no such thing as a ‘proper’ opinion, only a correct or incorrect one. And I strive to be correct. Heaven forfend!

For his reviews themselves, the sampling here doesn't do much to impress me. I think he pretty thoroughly misses every relevant point about "Stardust Memories" for example, and I find it hard to believe anyone could be naive enough to make such claims about Allen's consistent characterizations and what they say about his films.

  If I had written this, folks like Mark would be dying for me to exptrapolate more. What’s good for the gander is…go ahead, fill in the rest.

Likewise, I was taken aback by his comments about "Vertigo", and feel they are glaringly off the mark -- then again, I am consistently surprised that so few people mention that the rest of the film after Scottie becomes catatonic is all in his head, and serves as a psychological examination of him "working things out" to try and find absolution for earlier events (it's all a big conspiracy, the woman he loved never really died, he overcomes his vertigo, etc -- think about the original ending to "Brazil" and I think there's a good comparison to be made).

  The film is not in Scottie’s head, and there is nothing in the film to support Mark’s claim. Yes, we externally see Scottie’s delusions, but that is from the same objective eye the rest of the film proceeds from. Simply wrong.

Through this, the question becomes "Can Scottie absolve himself, or do his psychological attempts ultimately lead to the same place again? Regardless, the existence of this interpretation (which I feel is the strongest one) and how it feeds even into other interpretations, how it helps clarify them, does much to reinforce Roger's assessment and debunk most of Schneider's claims.

  Except that it is not supported by a single second in the film. Therefore, using Mark’s logic, I am therefore right, and Ebert wrong.

It's those sorts of omissions, misreadings, and biases that make it easier for me to look at Schneider's critiques and see good technical writing skill and occasional insights that don't do much to overcome the deeper flaws and shortcomings in his film analysis. That's without considering his comments about Roger, which merely add to the perception that Schneider is under the influence of a desire to be a certain kind of reviewer, to have certain kinds of opinions, and that his reviews are as much motivated by those issues as they are by the content of any film he's reviewing.

  I omit nothing, misread nothing (unlike Mark, as shown here), and showed no biases. But note how Mark imbues what he sees as my desires.

Roger's ability to look at a film and NOT use some generic first-year film student "To Do" list to assess a film, instead approaching each film from a new perspective even while later considering the film within the context of his wealth of previous experience, is precisely what makes him such a great reviewer -- and why he has been and remains far more relevant than those reviewers and critics who act as if every single film must be inserted into an emotionless template to judge its adherence to pseudo-intellectual notions of filmmaking.

(My use of "pseudo-intellectual" is not meant as an anti-intellectual statement, and I trust it's not mistakenly taken as such. I am a big supporter of intellectualism, and a big opponent of anti-intellectualism. Pseudo-intellectualism is something quite different, and quite obnoxious.)

  I never claimed Ebert had a check list, only that his emotions bring down a good portion (i.e.- majority) of his reviews. And, it’s quite interesting to see that, emotional as Ebert is in films, he’s still far less emotional than folks like Mark, for Ebert recognizes that I do take each film individually and afresh, whereas Mark is so lost in his biased little world that he likely never even read Ebert’s closing opinions on my writings!

  More chaff, then:

By Bruco on December 10, 2009 12:18 PM

Interestingly, I know a number of individuals who would dismiss your reviews, Mr. Ebert, on the basis that you are too concerned with dull subjects like plot, character, and emotional involvement. These, of course, are the same folks with the latest Michael Bay fare on their Christmas lists. I wonder what they would make of Dan Schneider's reviews?

Certainly there's a world of difference between seeing "stuff get blowed up real good" and allowing personal feeling to be influenced by what's successfully conveyed by characters on the screen. Shouldn't art generate an emotional response? Is it to be admired for its precision alone? Aren't your observations of your own reactions meant as a human measure of the impact of the film that the reader can identify with?

Mr. Schneider's reviews are well-observed, astute, and written from an analytical perspective not unlike an undertaker dissecting a corpse. While no doubt useful as a critique of the technical craft of film-making, I am curious: does he actually enjoy going to the movies? Even his definition of a classic film belies his cold regard:

"Compare that with the definition of a great film (or any work of art) as something that successfully engages and enriches the mind and aesthetics through the excellence of its construction and/or performance."

Sheesh. He's not incorrect, but it sounds like he's grading a term paper. I'd like to combine his definition of a classic film with yours - "a film one could not bear never seeing again" and call it as encompassing as it needs to be.

Ebert: Credit where due: I heard that definition from the UK critic Derek Malcolm, who has the added distinction of acting as the bookie for the bets on the annual awards at Cannes. No, really.

  What is interesting is how few of Ebert’s readers actually have senses of humor, even as they admit I’m correct, like Bruco. My reviews are laced with wit, sardonic or not. And what is cold about my definition? That it is precise and objective? Why would I write film reviews if I did not love the art form?

  A few comments later, a twofer:

By Michael C. Whalen on December 10, 2009 12:28 PM

Does anyone else feel a little bit sad to see read grown man write that Spielberg is "a hack" and Ebert is "dense" for thinking he is a great filmmaker?

Isn't it clear that Schneider's mindset is a juvenile one?

A self described film lover who thinks they can separate audience response from artistic merit is really just lost in their own head. As mature adults have learned, there's no real wisdom in that navel gazing mindset.

Seriously, how are we supposed to that seriously?

By Michael C. Whalen on December 10, 2009 12:36 PM

Ha! Letting your "emotions get the better of you" in your response to art is bad thing to be avoided? Now that's rich!

Come ON, now! Isn't that just a little sad? To think your own emotions are trying to get the better of you? In the workplace, okay. While driving...when VOTING, okay, good policy.

But when responding to art, one much keep a close watch on those damn emotions, always trying to get the better of you? That is not the way to recognizing great art, friends. Find me a great artist who thinks so.

I'm sure Kubrick and Spielberg would both have a real laugh over a notion like that.

  Calling Spielberg a hack is correct, as shown above, and density is certainly true given the claims I showed Ebert made in certain films. What’s sad is that Michael cannot read real criticism without a puerile reactionary putdown. Then, for emphasis, Michael reiterates his tupidity in capitals.

  Speaking of puerile:

By David A on December 10, 2009 12:46 PM

Wow. Judging by the length of that email and the ridiculous amount of content on cosmoetica.com, there's some serious OCD action going on here.

Still, Schneider's gotten 151 million visitors. That's a lot of people who don't seem to care about good web design.

Good for him, I guess. It's not a site I'll be spending time on.

  Yes, Cosmoetica’s design is bad because….it’s not plastered with ads. Actually, the essays are very easily readable compared to most blogs- go click on David A’s name and compare! And, it seems he’s been spending time reading me, after all, for on a post dated 4/28/10, he links to my review of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation. I’ve lost count of the critics of Cosmoetica who become addicts.

  Then, the first of many off the wall posts with a passing tangency to the main thrust:

By tom123b on December 10, 2009 12:51 PM

I vehemently disagree with Schneider about 'greatness' -
"Like it or not, Hitler was a great man, as were Stalin and Mao, and Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great before them. Mass murderers all, but all great, as long as one is mindful that great does not only mean 'good' nor 'decent,' and that great men also can have great flaws."

Greatness can be defined as "the ability to inspire support." Given this definition, an argument can be made for Hitler's greatness, but it is a false argument.

For a brief time in history he did become the symbol of national pride for millions of people. "He inspired millions, therefore he was great" goes the argument. On the surface, the argument appears sound. But Hitler's leadership only seemingly inspired, while in fact merely brought to the surface preexisting mass-biases.

Erich Fromm's Escape from Freedom analyzes the socio-economic conditions that led to the Third Reich's rise to power. The biggest factor was the economic instability due to the oppressive economic sanctions imposed on Germany from WWI, amplified by the Great Depression. But also the hatred for the lower classes embedded within Calvinism and, to a slightly lesser degree, Lutheranism and the invention of radio with its propensity for mass propaganda in the hands of a powerful state, played a large role.

Hitler's specific psychological profile happened to align itself with the bitterness and embedded biases of the German people at the time. Yes, he did have a decent work ethic--720 page treatises do not write themselves. But it was resentment over WWI that inspired the mobilization of the German military. Hitler himself did not convince the German people that certain races of people belonged to an "underclass". That was a result of industrialization and Protestant doctrine that led people to believe they were powerless in the face of vast natural and social forces. Had Hitler lived in a less bitter, less economically unstable time, his racist nationalism would have inspired no one.

Greatness must always, at some point, result in beauty. For a time, millions of Germans were tricked into believing his regime would. We now see that they were absolutely wrong.

  Later, Ebert will rip such silliness, such as the unsupported nonsense that greatness results in beauty! Even funnier is this ape’s admission of mental masturbation as fun:

By Chris Kent on December 10, 2009 12:59 PM

I had not heard of Dan Schneider until this blog. I have now read several of his reviews thanks to the links and, as much as I hate to admit it, laughed out loud.

After wading through the first half of his review of "Deliverance," I realized almost immediately, "He's just a kid!"

No matter, he's an above average writer with a love of film. His perception and maturity need to grow, and a nice healthy road trip to Alaska one summer wouldn't hurt either.

I disagree to the very core of my being with both of you guys on "Deliverance," but since I'm on lunch break, must avoid time-consuming explanation. Truth be told, your review on "Deliverance" has always been one of my top-5 examples of the rare moment Roger missed the boat.


By Mr. Mann on December 10, 2009 1:01 PM

Schneider gains his popular appeal by being harsh to critics. His critiques on movies are technical and without emotion. Instead he saves his emotions until he talks about a critic he disagrees with. Then the hellfire and brimstone fall, and this is where Schneider gains his popularity. Just as some of us enjoy reading your negative reviews, some enjoy reading negative reviews of people, in this case critics. It is intellectual snobbery. To some people, reading a negative review of someone or something gives their ego a boost and gives them the illusion of superiority over others. It is a false emotion, and is not psychologically healthy. This is the problem I have with Schneider's reviews. It is fine if you are negative about a particular subject or person, as long as you have valid reasons. But to disagree and be intentionally cruel to those who don't share your opinion is elitist and uncalled for.

  Actually, Cosmoetica gets readers who appreciate quality, and have nowhere else to turn online. Period. Then:

By Mike Spearns on December 10, 2009 1:18 PM

Ebert: Sounds like a Borges story.


Yeah really! Look at the levels of extraction here already:

1) The movie;
2) Your review of the movie;
3) Schneider's review of your review of the movie;
4) Peter Svensland's email about Schneider's review of your review of the movie.
5) Reader's comments about Peter Svensland's email about Schneider's review of your review of the movie.
6) Your response to reader's comments about Peter Svensland's email about Schneider's review of your review of the movie.
7) My comments about your response to reader's comments about Peter Svensland's email about Schneider's review of your review of the movie.

Ebert: Excuse me, I need to lie down and hold onto something.

  8) My comment on Mike’s comments about Ebert’s response to reader’s comments about Peter Svensland’s email about Schneider’s review of Ebert’s review of the movie. Shall we see where we are at, oh, number 47?

  More chaff, then:

By C.B. Jacobson on December 10, 2009 2:04 PM

"I believe a good critic is a teacher. He doesn't have the answers, but he can be an example of the process of finding your own answers. He can notice things, explain them, place them in any number of contexts, ponder why some "work" and others never could." Take a guess at whom that quote is attributable to...

My problem with Schneider's critique of Mr. Ebert is that, as jim put it, he seems to be confusing the intentions of the film scholar with the intentions of the film critic. The assumption seems to be that the film critic's role is that of the wise shepherd, re-directing the flock (us schmucks who just dump our six bucks on the counter) down the path of righteousness -- this film is "good", this film is "bad", this film belongs in the "pantheon", this one does not -- telling us that we are "right" or "wrong" for holding the opinions that we hold. Mr. Schneider is not content to simply disagree with Mr. Ebert, and provide examples and illustrations of the reasons for that disagreement; he insists on asserting that Mr. Ebert is "wrong".

To seperate emotion from one's critical opinion is to render it almost entirely useless. How can a critic be "objective"? I'd think it would be pretty self evident that the notion of "having an opinion" denotes...well, having an OPINION, emphasis on the capitalized word. Mr. Ebert wrote once in response to an angry letter to the answer man that the critic's job was not to be a puppet of popular taste; likewise, I would argue that the critic's job is ALSO *not* to be a puppet of "critical opinion", of the assumption that because a given director (i.e. Spielberg or Lucas) is a "popular" artist, his work cannot possibly be of any worth, ect. That's not criticism, it's just snobbery.

I read Roger Ebert's reviews specifically BECAUSE he is "emotional". I consider Mr. Ebert the single most important teacher I've had in learning to love film. I don't always agree with him, but I always want to hear what he has to say; I want him to tell me why he was right, why I was wrong, what he saw in a film that I didn't see, what moved him that left me cold, or what we both recognized and loved in a given film.

(Good grief, was that pretentious, and probably ill-advised. But heartfelt, nonetheless.)

  C.B. repeats the cliché about a good _____ asking questions, not giving answers. In some instances that’s so, but a GREAT  ______ gives you the answers, as well, and the correct ones. That’s why they are great.

  Quite a few more posts, including on the Hitler greatness stuff,  the Spielberg as hack stuff, and some digressions on oil claims made in a documentary. Finally, a comment that touches on some of my claims about Ebert’s criticism:

By Chris Gibson on December 10, 2009 4:10 PM

I've noticed, Roger, that you seem to be swayed easily if a film creates a new world via excellent production design or visual invention, regardless of whether or not good stories are being told within those worlds.

The two standout examples of this are the good reviews you gave to "Robots" and "Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow". The latter film was pretty darn boring, and the former wasted its excellent visual ideas with cruddy storytelling and bad jokes (Pixar, it 'aint)

Of course, "Blade Runner"is one of the best production designed (is that the term?) movies of all time, and you've been pretty reluctant about it's greatness, even as you added it to your Great Movies list, so this isn't an absolute rule, but it's something I've noticed.

You're still the first guy I turn to to find out if a movie is worth seeing or not, even if we disagree sometimes (I will never understand why you liked "Domino")

A question, though. Have you ever watched a film a second time and found that your initial emotional response was wrong, perhaps even manipulated? That happened to me with "Crash" (the Haggis one). The first time I thought it was really affecting. The second time, I thought it was really dumb.

  Then, this:

By Adam on December 10, 2009 4:17 PM

I agreed with Roger's observations more than Gene Siskel's but I felt that sometimes Roger was too "emotional" in this one way: he would give a Thumbs Up only because he was being charitable to the artist behind the movie, and the artist's intent. On those occasions, Siskel's was more "analytic" in his criticisms and usually right.

When I looked back at Siskel's yearly lists of favorite movies, I realized that he wasn't as straight-laced as he seemed in arguing with Roger. Siskel picked "Mean Streets" as one of that year's best movies when it came out and Roger didn't, for example. And I think Siskel got "Something Wild" and Roger just didn't.

I think Dan Schneider writes with a lot of resentment in those passages. I'm not sure about Armond White but I don't think his contrariness rarely becomes *explicit* resentment.

  I’m resentful, but White is not? Jesus- read, read, READ! Then an email that claims Tor and his pal are nerds. No, mental cases, apparently, but not nerds. Then this, a few posts later:

By Patrick on December 10, 2009 4:20 PM

Count how many times Schneider uses the words "correct" and "incorrect" in reference to a subjective opinion about a work of art.

  That would be zero, Patrick. It should be noted, that by this time, I still had no clue that Ebert had written his post, and would not until December 11th. Then we get one of Ebert’s regular asskissers, Tom Dark. Like Grace Wang, he’s made a bit of hay as a semi-celebrity in Ebertworld. Here’s his blog, with comments by some of the denizens of Ebert’s blog. This is the first of many increasingly stupid replies:

By Tom Dark on December 10, 2009 4:21 PM

Well I'll be darned. I used to side with Roger more than Gene. It seemed to me that Gene judged more from sympathy...

Will read on.

  Here’s another example of where a poster claims something of me, all the while exhibiting the very tendency they condemn. Precious:

By Scott on December 10, 2009 4:36 PM

Dear Mr. Ebert,

I have read critics who write in the style of Schneider many, many times over the years and after a while I tend to reject critics of his ilk simply because they are not the least bit emotional about their viewpoints at all. In fact, they tend to sound petulently arrogant, as if they are on some perceived mountaintop attempting to bestow their knowledge onto us, the poor, foolish and deeply unintelligent mainstream. It's insulting, to say the least and it just feels as if these are people that don't even enjoy movies at all.

As for you and Mr. Siskel, I found two people who deeply treasured the art of the movies, no matter what style or genre and especially when I disagreed with either of you, I could always count on the both of you to be enlightning, eloquent and informative--effectively linking the emotional and intellectual.

Critics like Schneider turn me off completely for there is no passion, just intellectual grandstanding. It is equally arrogant to go that extra step and say that you are just wrong when his opinion differs. For that's what film criticism essentially is to me: an opinion of an emotional medium.

How dare someone begrudge you for having emotional responses to film and expressing your viewpoints.

There's always a place for critics like Schneider but it's just not the place I would prefer to visit.

Very sincerely,
Scott Collins

  Some more idiocy and Spielberg grandstanding, some more claims about the benefits of emotion and how I want to banish it (although,, again, my point is the over-emotionalism that ruins objectivity, not emotionalism itself). Then we get to this gem:

By Yancy Berns on December 10, 2009 5:39 PM

I must have been born with a missing chunk of grey matter, as I simply can't even begin to understand the problem with someone being an "emotional" critic. What possible value could a critic have, if not to honestly express him feelings about a movie from the perspective of he, himself, as a human being? (And not as some kind of sliver of the critical hive-mind that rises above the tug of actual feeling to an area of sexless cerebral tail-chasing...)

And what kind of better critic could there be, then, than a critic who writes beautifully? That's ALL I could ask from the critic. I don't necessarily make my film choices via whether the reviews are generally good or not, because the appreciation of most interesting recent films seems to dawn much later after the hype has died. So for me, the only purpose of heading to a film column like Roger's is to read his prose about movies, because he writes well about movies, and because he loves movies - and NOT because I have to agree with him ever, or at all (but, hey, I often do...)

And Roger, you fit that bill beautifully (even more so than before Mr. Siskel died... back then it did seem like you were winging it from a gut level, at least on air... but your writing, especially over the few years, has become just limitless pleasure...)

I simply cannot swallow the notion of objecivity in art. How could I tell you OBJECTIVELY how you are going to feel about a movie? How could there ever be an actual quantifiable value to a work of art? That value is only present, only possibly perceived in another human via their eloquently and emotionally crafted wording. Frankly, if there WAS an official end-all "this movie is good, this one is bad" equation, I wouldn't be nearly as interested in movies.

Hell, it's mostly BECAUSE of minority opinions that I cherish the critics I cherish. Again, this is just maddening to me, that there are critics out there who feel that THEY are the artists, and not the filmmakers themselves... that flim somehow is a knuckle-dragging tenth-rate primitive art form, and that only via their brilliant deconstruction do films become art.

Look, there are some movies that only people with frankly heightened taste in film are going to enjoy. For those with less sophisticated tastes, it can be comforting to imagine that a movie is definitively "good" or "bad", especially if they just didn't get it: Spielberg's "A.I."? "Oh, that a bad movie, everyone thinks so..."; Really, everyone? Cause I don't think so...

Please, Roger, tell me: Where could objectivity possibly factor into good film criticism? How could a critic be so egomanical as to imagine that their take is the definitive take, that they and only they are able to see past the trickery on display, the sham up there on the screen?

It reminds me of the great Manohla Dargis' dismissal of RETURN OF THE KING (the movie) as being "fascist"... Now, she's an terrific critic, and I love her generally subjective opinions, but in the case of ROTK, what's the point of declaring that you've spotted a latent fascism? Obviously, she herself and anyone else who reads a film column seriously is not going to have their politics swayed by an undercurrent of bad politics in an adventure movie... So who is she warning of this undertow of corruption? Only those who wouldn't grasp what she meant, anyway, only those who DON'T read film columns...Where is the value in that bit of criticism? Yes, the film has armies of white guys fighting evil armies of monsters. Fine, if you wanna be a rain cloud, you can fixate on that element... and if that's your subjective opinion, I suppose that's kosher.

But what role is this "other" non-emotional critic supposed to perform in society? General snobbery? Superiority (especially when taking down a movie already long-embraced as a classic)? And how many times must a young critic try to define themselves by taking down a movie that others have long loved? Does he imagine himself evolved, above us? Does he feel he is talking down to a bunch of ignorami?

I'm a human, you're a human. I want to know what YOU think. I don't need a HAL 9000's carefully modulated and tweedy opinion... I want passion or nothing, but not the passion of snobbery, or the passion for beheading sacred cows... or the passion for showing how much smarter you are than everyone else...

I guess what I'm saying is, I need my movie critic to be a movie FAN first and foremost. As great a writer as Pauline Kael was, I often felt she just didn't like movies that much and would rather have been critiquing some other art form...

  At least Yancy admits he’s a dummy. He types: ‘How could I tell you OBJECTIVELY how you are going to feel about a movie?’ Good thing, because I never claimed that. Feelings are pointless in criticism PRECISELY because they are subjective. But, there are qualities that are objective. Here is a clssic example of someone who actually says the truth, but has not the sense to realize it. Then he claims: ‘I want to know what YOU think.’ Exactly. I don’t give a damn how anyone feels about art, because ei can never feel that exact thing, but we all CAN think the same things about that which is objective. Gotta love it when those who argue with you actually bolster your arguments.

  A few posts later, and more idiocy:

By Adam Breckenridge on December 10, 2009 5:46 PM

I have always been a great admirer of Roger's reviews, but I don't necessarily expect everyone else to be so (I get teased by my friends sometimes for my fandom). There are many criticisms leveled against him and I'm willing to admit some of them have validity (I'm just more willing to overlook them) and so I don't really get upset when I come across other people criticizing him.

There is one thing that Dan Schneider said though, that really ticked me off. The quote: I not only concur, but almost forgive him for recommending Saving Private Ryan. I said almost, now.

I'm not going to say that Schneider is wrong in disliking Saving Private Ryan, because that's opinion, and I know there are plenty of widely loved films out there that everyone seems to adore except for me. But the thing is, while I don't particularly care for say, Singing in the Rain (musicals are my least favorite genre), when I encounter a film like that that has been universally hailed as one of the greatest films ever made, has topped numerous lists of the greatest films of all time and is deeply cherished by millions of fans around the world with an appeal that transcends borders and generations, I'm pretty willing to admit that I'm in a minority. I would never denigrate someone for liking Singing in the Rain, I would never look down my nose at them, or try to claim that they have poor taste in film if they actually like to watch that kind of stuff. Hell, if a friend invited me over to watch it, I would gladly come along in the hopes that watching it with a passionate fan could unlock for me the appeal it holds for so many others and add another cherished film to my list of favorites.

Saving Private Ryan is in the same vein. It has been widely hailed as a masterpiece, it topped numerous "best of" lists and has become one of the most highly esteemed war films ever made. So how arrogant do you have to be to say that Roger was in the wrong for recommending it, in fact, so far in the wrong as to have crossed the border into unpardonable sin? Especially since he wasn't exactly the only one. Pretty much everyone who saw that movie has recommended it to someone else (including me, so at least I know where I will stand with Schneider if I ever meet him).

One thing I have to give Roger credit for is that he has always been willing to admit when he has been in the minority and (and this is the important part) has done so without compromising his own opinions or denigrating those of others. I have never seen Roger lambast someone for liking Blue Velvet or disliking Dark City (I suspect he would consider such things below him) but he has never betrayed his own feelings on the film either.

Schneider demonstrates the worst kind of egotism. Not only are his opinions infallible, but whoever disagrees with him can only be wrong. If he says Saving Private Ryan is a bad movie, as far as he's concerned, he's not stating an opinion, he's stating a fact, and only an idiot would argue otherwise (and the world, of course, is full of idiots, and Schneider is one of the only vanguards of good taste left in the world). That, in my book, makes for a bad critic.

  For the record, I have never said I disliked Saving Private Ryan. I have said it is objectively a bad film, and in many arguments have proved it. Period. The fallacy that the majority is always right has long been disproved. And chiding Ebert for recommending it is not wrong, but a good thing, for I am warning others to not waste their precious time on earth watching such dreck. As dor the quote of me, aboutr almost forgiving Ebert for his thumbs up, it is called HUMOR. Again, in this feast of recurring stupidities, humorlessness and false offense taken is laughable. To not get that is the worst kind of stolidity.

  Then this piece of long-windedness:

By Stephen on December 10, 2009 6:00 PM

At the outset, it is hard to think of anyone who characterizes Spielberg as schlockmeister as anything but a snarky misanthrope.

When reading Mr. Ebert's reviews (and I have read them, lots of them), I have often thought about C.K. Chesterton's famous statement about Charles Dicken's. He said,

"Dickens stands first as a defiant monument of what happens when a great literary genius has a literary taste akin to that of the community. For this kinship was deep and spiritual. Dickens was not like our ordinary demagogues and journalists. Dickens did not write what the people wanted. Dickens wanted what the people wanted. . . . Hence there was this vital point in his popularism, that there was no condescension in it." -- G.K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens: A Critical Study

Mr. Ebert's populism has, I think, three laudable motivations. The first is his willingness to compare like things to their likenesses. If you are going to give only Citizen Kane four stars and only Armageddon one star, you do not have a lot of room in the middle, and you certainly can't be of much service to your readers who have will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Citizen Kane, but perhaps a once-in-a-week desire to see a movie. So, in reviewing a film like 2012, Mr. Ebert compares it (instinctively, though sometimes expressly) to other disaster films, and by that comparison the film holds up fine. As Samuel Jackson famously said: "It's not Gone with the Wind. It's not On the Waterfront. It's Snakes on a Plane." It also Snakes in a Lame Movie, but his point is valid. Star Wars is not 2001, but it wasn't supposed to be.

Second, Mr. Ebert is a great advocate of the new and the obscure. He knows that "it is a frustrating thing to make a movie" and that this is especially true when one is new to the business. He is watchful for talent where others might not think to look for it. See e.g., the review of Blade II, the first US film of Guillermo del Torro.

Third, and I think most important, Mr. Ebert finds in his reviews a way to express verbally the transcendent way in which we have all come to relish going to the movies. Of Star Wars he wrote: “Every once in a while I have what I think of as an out-of-the-body experience at a movie. When the ESP people use a phrase like that, they're referring to the sensation of the mind actually leaving the body and spiriting itself off to China or Peoria or a galaxy far, far away. When I use the phrase, I simply mean that my imagination has forgotten it is actually present in a movie theater and thinks it's up there on the screen. In a curious sense, the events in the movie seem real, and I seem to be a part of them. . . . [T]here's entertainment so direct and simple that all of the complications of the modern movie seem to vaporize.”

That precisely describes my feelings upon seeing Return of the Jedi. I was six.

More from Chesterton:

"The belief that the rabble will only read rubbish can be read between the lines of all our contemporary writers, even of those writers whose rubbish the rabble reads. . . . The only difference lies between those writers who will consent to talk down to the people, and those writers who will not consent to talk down to the people. But Dickens never talked down to the people. He talked up to the people. He approached the people like deity and poured out his riches and his blood. This is what makes the immortal bond between him and the masses of men. He had not merely produced something they could understand, but he took it seriously, and toiled and agonized to produce it. They were not only enjoying one of the best writers, they were enjoying the best he could do. . . . His power, then, lay in the fact that he expressed with an energy and brilliancy quite uncommon the things close to the common mind. But with mere phrase, the common mind, we collide with a current error. Commonness and the common mind are now generally spoken of as meaning in some manner inferiority and the inferior mind; the mind of the mere mob. But the common mind means the mind of all the artists and heroes; or else it would not be common. . . . In everybody there is a certain thing that loves babies, that fears death, that likes sunlight: that thing enjoys Dickens."

That thing, likewise, enjoys Ebert.

Ebert: I treasure by Chesterton's A Dickens Companion. And i like those Father Brown stories, especially because of how the weather seems to be ominously looming at the outset in so many of them.

  Yet, even in just the selections quoted, it is clear that I am a writer who NEVER condescends. I assume an intelligent reader even though I know most are boobs. A classic example of a) someone saying in 1000 words what can be said in ten, and b) merely bloviating without reference to reality.

By Paul J. Marasa on December 10, 2009 6:11 PM

"Cerebral" films? "Cerebral" criticism? Feh; what's important is that one takes the film seriously--enough to think hard and feel deeply about it--and to respond to it so that the reader is given a unique reading of the film, preferably one that is clear and detailed, engaging and focused. Read the academic James Naremore's "Acting in the Cinema"; his take on Cary Grant's appearance, especially his socks(!), during the crop-duster sequence in "North by Northwest" is illuminating--and more than a little fetishizing. Afterwards, you'll never again be able to watch that movie without Naremore insisting you check out Grant's hosiery.

Roger, you're the one who reminds us to read Warshow's "The Immediate Experience"--so what else should one expect of you but a deeply felt reading? Even when you're nuts, as with your original take on "A Clockwork Orange." But at least after reading it I had something to knock around in my head--that the film is "an ideological mess, a paranoid right-wing fantasy masquerading as an Orwellian warning. It pretends to oppose the police state and forced mind control, but all it really does is celebrate the nastiness of its hero, Alex." Yikes--but instead of saying, "Your review sucks, sucks, sucks," I let it roam around a little in my head. OK, I kicked it out eventually, but not until I admitted there is a kind of charm to Alex that is difficult to ignore--or stomach.

Anyway, shouldn't we be watching a movie right now?

(132 days until Ebertfest!)

  Another example of not reading. I’ve never claimed that one cannot have emotions, in or out of criticism; only that one should never let them hold sway and dominace. Gene Siskel, as example, clearly had emotions in some critiques (as have I and others), but, unlike Ebert, he rarely let them rule, and even in this thread Ebert’s fans admit he way too often lets his emotions rule, in giving good reviews to schlock.

  After another comment, Ebert’s wannabe sidekick returns:

By Tom Dark on December 10, 2009 6:20 PM

The page came back up by only partly loading it.

Well... so far I give Schneider one big smear of the editing pencil. He isn't aware how literal minded he is, pros and cons about our esteemed critic's reviews notwithstanding.

Schneider's essay tends to be dense and overworked and overly self-conscious. Let's say he's within intellectual rights to declare whether another's criticism is correct or incorrect -- albeit, in such case, the details would need specified with more exactitude than he's provided.

One instance is more than enough: whether "Gates of Heaven" is one of the top ten films of all time (I watched it on Roger's recommendation), Schneider, in too many words, comes to his point: "...as if there was some great significance to cultural failure."

You rule, Schneid. The correct critical point of view is that we consider only the winners. That would save us the trouble of any number of movies about Hitler, let alone about people trying to make a living running a pet cemetery. Bingo. Pass the Dom Perignon.

I don't know how far this next item would get under Roger's craw, but it still gets under mine; it makes no difference whether it's for a Pulitzer prize or a letter home.

You can't be a "wordsmith" and not be aware of any number of the possibilities of your meanings and how others may take them. It's a continuous task of self-education. It's an intellectual science which often has no more exacting tools than a housepainter's brush; an admirably energetic writer must deal with it as best he can. Not all efforts win prizes, and not all sentences are admired for their meanings.

You can jabber endlessly about what you believe, and display a lack of reasonably expectable intellect about your beliefs. When one of this aptitude has been outclassed by his opponent, a twinge of jealousy and incomprehension may bring the ad hominem "wordsmith" to mind.

Oh, he is a wordsmith. Being a wordsmith isn't fair. It isn't correct, as praising films about struggling losers isn't correct. I am still correct. I am right. I am good. My ego tells me so. I have been struck a low blow by mere wordsmithing.

It may be, however, that the more articulate opponent can not be fairly said to have the same jumbled fashion of unreasoned thinking that his honorable adversary may at that moment be projecting upon him. One is never too old to grow out of that.

Guess I'll go see what I think of Schneider's reviews.

  Uh, earth to Tom Dark: where have you been the last 30 years? We live in a culture that refuses to allow people to fail, feel shame, or understand why they need to improve. And, here we go with another trope: criticize Ebert, in any way, and it has to be jealousy or envy or whatever. Yes, Tom Dark, you are a real thinker. Unfortunately, later comments will show even less to offer from this boob. Heaven forfend he should actually read.

  Two posts later we see how well Darko reads:

By Tom Dark on December 10, 2009 6:32 PM

I got this far with Schneider's review of "Gates of Heaven:"

In this film, Morris merely lets us look long and hard at the strangeness of humanity. This film is not about pets, nor even death, but the strange ways the human psyche can twist itself into a thousand little bizarre strands, none of which ever comes quite together in the same way.

I'm sorry, but Schneider sounds like he's never been outside of some ivory tower. His prose can grow ludicrously self-indulgent in a very short time. This is no contender.

I've bookmarked Armond White, but won't this guy.

  Now, here is another trope that occurs- someone actually quotes something both deep and well written, and in their infinite stolidity, try to make it seem like it’s poorly written. Maybe Tom Dark is the long lost sibling of Weeping Sam?

By Lamar Kukuk on December 10, 2009 6:46 PM

I suppose Dan Schneider would think less of me if I didn't say something like "Dan Schneider represents everything that's wrong with society today". To me, the quality of a film critic is about nothing but the quality of his writing, because to suggest one is either a good or bad critic because of his opinions is to suggest that a movie is something other than a collection of still images assembled by our minds, filtered through our life's experiences and processed in a totally unique way by our brains. I grow so weary online of listening to snobs tell me that movies exist in the same absolute terms as the sun rising in the East and setting in the West. Schneider (is anything going to make me lose interest in someone's opinion faster than hearing that Spielberg is a hack? Pretty good indication that he and I have nothing to discuss.) would grow even more angry with me to learn that, even though I'd watched you on TV as long as I could remember, it was your review of Dark City that made me a fan of your written work. Not because you agreed with me (although I was pretty happy to find someone else thought it was the best movie of 1998), but because of the passion for a movie you were going out on a limb to approve. I love reading your reviews not because I expect to agree with you (sometimes yes, sometimes no, but I usually don't read them until after seeing the movies myself anyway) but because your writing is all about your love of the movie experience. Every time I see an article "reviewing a critic", it comes down not to their writing, but to "He liked Movie X, so he's clearly an idiot, while failing to acknowledge the greatness of Movie Y and doing his job in liking Movie Z, but doing so for all the wrong reasons!" I don't get the point of this, honestly. I don't care if the critic I'm reading agrees with me (honestly, just about nobody shares my taste), just that they disagree in a way that's thoughtful and doesn't tell me that the disagreement springs from the fact that I don't know what I'm talking about. Imagine the horror of a world where the Tomatoeometer read 100% or 0% on every movie because everyone got with the program and just had the good sense to agree with Schneider. Ouch.

  Another example of non-reading, and tossing out clichés: I am angry. The dominant themes in all my criticism are wit and objectivity and excellence. But, if reading Bazooka Joe adventures is your thing….

  Then, an interesting admission:

By Debrevis de la Fontes on December 10, 2009 6:57 PM

What is to be said of someone, like me, who often prefers the review to the film? Sharing thoughts on a shared experience - that is the most enjoyable sort of conversation (that can be shared outside of the bedroom). What a pleasure it is that movies give us the chance to participate in a piece of conversation with experienced, interesting, thoughtful people - our friends and favorite critics. Where we agree or disagree is where we find and define ourselves.

  Ok, so I have been said to hate and envy Ebert, now get this:

By Ian Burr Chalmers on December 10, 2009 7:32 PM

Sir, I hope you didn't really read all that from Schneider; I couldn't read any more of him after a little ways, and you're far too kind for even devoting an entry to the hack, it must be said. He really thinks he's something! If anything, the dope seems to imitate your literary style!
P.S. Did you get my comment on your last entry? ("Eliza's Horoscope" etc.)

  I write like Ebert? Can these people even read at a super-5th Grade level?

By Nat Almirall on December 10, 2009 7:42 PM

It seems that the prickliest of Schneider's barbs--his snide references to your "pop" status and scathing dismissal of Hollywood--are also the emptiest.

But I guess that's where the Armond White comparison comes from. If he truly thinks your a bad critic, why has he read so many of your reviews?

  Again, where have I ever said Ebert was a bad critic? Read the quotes. Uh-oh, here comes envy again:

By B P Odom on December 10, 2009 7:46 PM

I am struck above all by how mean-spirited Mr Schneider is in his evaluation of your work (he also seems more than a little envious of your ability with words). He seems unable to have a critical disagreement with you that is not accompanied by some sort of gratuitous, "as usual," just before he belittles your basic cognitive functions. Indeed, one wonders why Mr Schneider is so fixated on your work; by contrast it is instructive to note that you almost never write reviews that make other than passing reference to other critics. As for your being an "emotional" critic: even if you are more sensitive to the emotional content and effects of films, we should not allow Schneider's false dichotomy between emotion and rationality to stand. Emotions have a logic that most people understand (e.g., getting mad at someone who is kind to you is generally taken to be emotionally irrational). Art is about emotions, and the critic who understands and explicates the emotions of the work is the critic doing his/her job; the idea that a film critic's job is primarily to explain the camera's movements and other technical qualities of a film apart from the emotional content they serve is absurd. It is also just wrong to claim that you make the mistake of criticizing a film for not being another film (this is Schneider's giraffe excursus)--indeed I recall you taking the esteemed Gene Siskel to task more than once just for doing this. But there is a difference between this cardinal critical sin and negative criticism generally, and it is a distinction Schneider fails to grasp. Any negative criticism of a film is a statement to the effect that the movie would have been better had it done or not done something, which is the same as saying it should have been different. Yet this is often the very essence of criticism, not its cardinal sin. You are absolutely correct that readers form relationships with the critics who speak to them. It is why I have been a loyal reader of yours for decades now, and why on this evidence I am unlikely to inflict Mr Schneider's snarky efforts on myself.

  It should be noted that Ebert actually does often reference other critics and extraneous world events. I do so to contextualize a film, especially an older film. That is the job of a critic! Especially one who does more than write reviews, but makes essays of them.

By Nick on December 10, 2009 7:57 PM

I'll take some of Schneider's comments, because I think some of them are valid, but it seems like sometimes (looking especially at STARDUST MEMORIES here) that he is more intent on disproving you, The Ebert, than reviewing the film. He takes us point by point through YOUR review rather than simply stating his review, whatever it may be. It seems petty to me.

  And by using Ebert’s poorly wrought and thought out example I show why the film succeeds because of how a major critic so totally missed the obvious. This is actually called innovating in writing. But, let’s stay trite, right?

By Joseph Thomas on December 10, 2009 10:16 PM

I think I've found the problem: I couldn't help but notice, looking through his list of "Great Films", a lack of Luis Bunuel, David Lynch, or much other surrealism (although the ONLY Alain Resnais film he includes is Last Year at Marienbad). I believe a list of great films is incomplete without at least mentioning Un Chien Andalou. Especially when it includes Amelie.

Schneider is unwilling, perhaps, to invest himself in a film that has an affect almost entirely dependent on emotion? If true, it isn't necessarily a bad thing. It is simply the way his mind works. Though I don't think, especially in the area of such an emotional art form, that a critic's emotion is anything to criticize.

And why does he have three James Cameron movies on there if he hates Spielberg so? I agree that the Cameron movies are better than most of Spielberg's, but Cameron is every bit the filmmaker of "Hollywood tripe" that Spielberg is.

  Could it be that the Cameron films are there because they are NOT tripe? Here again, no ability to discern. And, my great film list clearly states these are of films I have seen, not all films, although this poster’s idiocy makes me doubt any film he’d recommend would not waste my time, especially since he includes Bunuel and Lynch.

  More stupidity:

By Arthur Gibbs on December 10, 2009 10:23 PM

There are two types of critics. Those who, like Roger, try to find a reason to like a film. And then there are those who try to find a reason to not like a film. I suspect Roger's film review database doesn't follow the bell curve. I bet he has seen many more 3 & 4 stars than 1 or 2.

The more critical critics I'm sure get upset as they want to defend their pickiness. Surely they must be better since they have a higher standard and are more exclusive?

However a more generous critic is going to appeal to more varied tastes have a much more popular following. Leading to more critic envy.

Roger defines a great film as one you could not bear never seeing again. A film you love.

The critical critics define a great film as one that successfully engages and enriches the mind. A film your supposed to love.

To sum it up:
Great movie critics talk about ideas.
Small movie critics talk about other critics.

  Great critics stick to the films and how they are constructed, not delving into personal tastes. But, see how Arthur, here, cannot even quantify the difference between good and like. Why then bother with anything that follows?

By Spork on December 11, 2009 12:19 AM

Schneider said "Had the audience been left guessing about whether or not Judy was 'Madeline', it would have been far more effective." He then goes on to criticize you for not understanding that this is the obvious flaw of Vertigo.

Come on, now. This choice is not good fodder to critique a critic. This was Hitchcock's biggest problem! Being dismissive about this choice is naive, and it is also disingenuous when it's used against a critic who favored Hitchcock's choice. It was a very tough choice. Here's why:

Biographers tell how Hitchcock struggled with the choice of whether to include this big reveal early or not.

By not revealing Judy's true self until the end, the audience sees the world only from Scotty's side. Indeed, this choice would have been consistent with the POV of the story, and the mystery would have remained until the end, with the moment of reversal being closer to the moment of revelation.

In contrast, by revealing that Judy is Madelaine, the audience learns that Judy loves Scotty even though she was involved in deceiving him about a murder. Furthermore, we learn that she chooses to pursue her love at the expense of everything else. From that point on, the audience senses the two lovers are doomed, and their affair is newly charged with the suspense of wondering how long she can persist in this deception and avoid destruction.

A case can be made for each choice, and Hitchcock chose the second after expressing his own doubts about it being the right one. It's very interesting that the 1959 audience didn't agree with him (Vertigo flopped), but the current audience agrees (Vertigo is often a "top ten" best-ever pick).

I think people who favor the first choice are not aware of an overriding constraint. The movie had no more than thirty minutes left in it before curtains. If Judy's deceit had not been revealed early, there would be no convincing way to show in the short time remaining her going from being put off about Scotty's perverse advances to falling in love with him. There was only thirty minutes left to show that, plus the scene of her exposing her guilt by mistake, plus the scene of her being dragged to confession at the tower, and plus the moments before her falling to her death a second time. I think Hitchcock decided he had to let the audience know who she really was in order to make her subsequent actions credible. He had to make the film about Judy as well as Scotty.

Vertigo is a mystery about the nature of love itself; it's not a suspense thriller or a film noir. When I first saw it in its first re-release in 1983 (?), I was so caught up in it that I wondered right up to the final seconds whether a love so sick and twisted, yet love at its most passionate, could triumph over death. The blacker than black ending has to be the most powerful ending imaginable.

Some readers may disagree about the merits of Vertigo, but this movie is not one to be used to critique a critic.

Ebert: The audience would also be denied its belated realization that when Scotty undressed the "unconscious" woman after pulling her from the ocean, she was not unconscious. He must have acted gently and like a gentlemen, and that, combined with his heroism in diving in to rescue her, and her guilt about her the deception she was paid to perform, goes a long way toward explaining her feelings for him.

Hitchcock's greatest film.

For a long time, I thought it was "Notorious," but it's flawed by Ingrid Bergman's lips, especially during the longest kissing scene up to that date in a movie.

  I don’t know which comment is sillier- Spork’s total lack of understanding of drama and narrative, or Ebert’s continued obsession with Ingrid Bergman. Either way, another de facto cession of the argument. Thanks, guys.

By Average Guy. on December 11, 2009 12:20 AM

Dan Schneider compares himself to Einstein here (look to bottom):


His great assertion is that he is cerebral, a logically consistent critic. Yet, objectivity is not possible when examining an intrinsically subjective medium. Film is not a medium that provides for true and false propositional claims, instead only good and bad (qualitative) claims. Qualitative claims are practical, but no more reasonable (in so far as they are logically definite) than "bad electrons". So it seems only logically possible for their to be emotive film criticism.

The self-proclaimed poet laureate of his era, ought to take a page from histories most famous bard, "the fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool"-Shakespeare

Mr. Ebert, your blog is more poetic than the entirety of Mr. Schneider's immense database.

  So, Mr. Average displays he has no intellect, trying to wrangle quantum theory into the macro world, and then topping that off with an inapt Shakespeare quote. Yawn.

  A rare supporter of my view goes unanswered:

By Nick on December 11, 2009 12:35 AM

It was such a pleasure to read Schenider's comments about your review of Stardust Memories. I've disagreed with you about that movie for years, and always return to your review as a kind of masochism whenever I rewatch that movie.

Of course, to put that in perspective, please understand that it's only painful for me to read that review because I typically have so much respect for your writing and opinions.

The other review of yours that always blows my mind is your review of A Clockwork Orange.

And... oh boy... I'm very excited to have a legitimate reason now to ask you the following question, a question I have never asked you in the past because it was never on topic:

Do you still agree with what you said all of those years ago about A Clockwork Orange?

  A few comments later another of Ebert’s obsessive fans chimes in, but, unlike Tom Dark, he has some gray matter:

By S M Rana on December 11, 2009 12:58 AM

"But, before the final scene of the family toting their possessions away in an ox cart comes another scene which shows Ray’s utter mastery of realistic storytelling. While packing up the family’s belongings, Apu comes across a bowl with a large spider spinning a web, and is repulsed. Then, in the next bowl he finds the necklace that the other girl claimed Durga stole. He takes it, runs to a pond of algaed water, and plops the necklace through the scum which recoalesces around the spot left by the necklace- a great touch, visually, but also it shows the brother’s love and loyalty to his flawed sister, to save her reputation in death, as well as his emergence from under the influence of the three women who have dominated his life until then."....from Dan Schneider's review of Pather Panchali

This one brief scene, where Apu hurls the stolen necklace into the cess pond, always struck me as one which shows the director at a humanistic and artistic peak. This one para makes me want to read more of him on cinema. His argument that Rashomon is spoiled by the last five minutes is also sustainable.

  Another interesting comment, although a reason why not to read me would have been nice, more than rhetoric:

By Josh on December 11, 2009 2:03 AM

It is unfortunate that this thread has become such a tizzy of Ebert fanbois. Obviously there are many problems with Schneider. He brings a lot more to the table, though, that the bulk of comments here - the many comments which are so quick to immediately dismiss everything he has to say for one or the other choice infraction.

I am deeply grateful, on the other hand, for the spirit in which Roger made this post. Fact is, it's a great read. It's a great read because of the effort and insight Peter and his friend put into their email, and because of the effort - and insight - Dan Schneider has already put into his comments on Roger's criticism. Fact is, there are reasons to read, and not to read Schneider, just as there are reasons to read, and not to read, Ebert. Film criticism is not the high school prom king & queen contest.

Thank you Roger for being a big enough person to let this post stand as you did. I had never heard of Schneider and what a great context indeed to discover him, faults and all.

Ebert: I value comments critical of my reviews. I'm too old to learn new tricks, but young enough to improve my old ones.

  After quite a few more ill written and ill thought out posts, we get the first entrance of a group of online daisy chainers seeking to get some recognition off of Ebert’s post on me. I destroyed a few of their number in some earlier posts, and will expound in a bit. But look at the post, and why would anyone who would read these juvenile masturbators think that their childish antics reflected badly on anyone but themselves?:

By YR on December 11, 2009 9:45 AM

I already had a low opinion of Mr. Schneider due to his repeated insistence that Orson Welles, not Carol Reed, directed "The Third Man" -- something which no serious film historian or Welles scholar actually believes -- but while googling him I found this:


So, why does anyone take him seriously?

  Then more conflation of Ebert as an emotional critic, etc., as well as other blatant misreadings of what I wrote and did not write.

  Not only do I get misread, but then commenters are misreading commenters who misread others besides me:

By tm on December 11, 2009 2:18 PM

Average Guy sez:
"Dan Schneider compares himself to Einstein here (look to bottom):
http://www.cosmoetica.com/B166-DES110.htm "

And there Schneider wonders about the great Einstein toiling away in some menial and mindless job.

Wait, he did toil away in a patent office while working on his theories.

More to the point in our discussions on emotions vs calculation, Einstein was not the greatest manipulator of math in 20th century physics. While he obviously wasn't inept at math, Einstein's main strengths were a rebellious streak and great intuition of how things worked. (An intuition which worked against him later as he refused to believe quantum mechanics.) The essential concepts behind his great theories are not painstaking works of calculation, but conceiving the whole notion of how this universe thing works in a whole new way.

The actual facts of Einstein's life blow up Mr. Schneider's analogy. If he wanted a more appropriate comparison, he should have picked Dirac.

  These comments, along with the bulk of others, shows why commenting on blogs displays human ignorance more than any other format. Witness:

By Phil Howe on December 11, 2009 3:39 PM

I find this entire argument absurd. At the risk of sounding as dogmatic as von Trier or Truffaut, here is my opinion as regards the supposed dichotomy between the cerebral and the emotional. Art is by necessity emotional. Great art evokes an emotional response.

This is why 2001: A Space Odyssey is such a great film - because it evokes a visceral feeling of awe, a sense of being overwhelmed by the stunning visual universe it creates. Seven, similarly, is great art, at least for me. After watching Seven I literally lay curled up on my bed for about half an hour, blown away by the horrifying perfection of it - if ever any film has truly created Hell, Seven is that film.

It may well be that when you, reader, saw Seven (if indeed you ever did), you were not affected in this way by it - indeed you may have left the cinema thinking it was absolute tripe or even been completely indifferent to it. That is the essence of a good film - indeed, to quote Roger himself (when discussing a Herzog film - Aguirre I think) 'like all good films, it isn't for everybody - only bad films are for everybody'.

Fahrenheit 9/11, on the other hand, is not art. Cerebrally, it is one of the best films I have seen in a long time. As a student of political theory I found it extremely interesting. Similarly Memento had me deep in thought for days afterwards. But neither of these films made an impact, neither of them actually affected me. Casablanca may indeed be a film with no real ‘visual’ artistic merit – it is certainly not as striking as The Third Man (say) but it made an impact on me, it genuinely, emotionally affected me. In fact it made more of an impact on me than The Third Man did. I therefore make no claim to objectivity when I say Casablanca is the better film of the two. Indeed on a cerebral level this is most certainly not so – The Third Man is better scripted, acted and filmed. It is ‘objectively’ the better film, but as far as I am concerned this way of thinking about art is the wrong one.

Any phenomenon, in any medium, which does not affect the viewer/reader/observer/listener emotionally, viscerally, is not art. For sure art is perfectly entitled to have a cerebral impact as well – to return to my previous example, 2001: A Space Odyssey, it is possible to read into 2001 all sorts of fascinating themes about humanity (what is a human? &c.) and evolution. One reading of it which I found very interesting followed the theme of tool use – humans used tools (with the help of some aliens), then the tools became powerful enough to try to use the humans; the human (for ‘twas only Dave) then succeeded (with the help of the aliens again) in transcending not just tools (that is to say, our means of manipulating the material world) but the material world itself.

As I say, this is all very interesting, but it is not these cerebral themes which make 2001 one of my favourite films of all time. It is the emotional, visceral impact it had on me when I first saw it (and continues to have on me on the occasions I find the time to re-watch it) that give it that status.

To round off, I would like to make a statement which would bring ridicule from Schneider and indeed from most ‘cerebral’ critics. Here goes:

Serenity is my favourite film of all time.

There. There that is. I am well aware of the fact that Serenity is not cerebrally even in the league of films like (to name but a pair) Kane or Apocalypse Now, or even such ‘lesser greats’ as E.T. or Shawshank. It just so happened though that when I watched it I fell so deeply in love with the characters that if I had to take only one film to a desert island, Serenity would absolutely, unequivocally, be that one. If I had to write an essay describing why, I could not. And that is the essence of art.

  A perfect example of the fallacy of self-limits. I accept that Phil is too ignorant to write such an essay, I’m not. Am I to blame for his lack? Much less his conflation of art and politics.

  Then Tom Dark returns, and this post shows how much he is one of those lonely old men with nothing to do, who really believes that he has a friend in Ebert, simply because he sucks up to him. There are always a few Tom Darks on any blog or in any chatroom. Yeesh:

By Tom Dark on December 11, 2009 4:28 PM

Yup, you empathize with music. What else do you do with movies, novels, short stories, a friend drilling you into your chair with a tale of woe?

So, emotion without intellect makes bad writing, and intellect without emotion makes same. Which is worse is a unique, original cooperation between said writer and his critics. I conjecture that the worst has yet to be discovered.

As to the dividing line between intellect and emotion, that got all fudged up for me with Husserl's phenomenology. Maybe we're so used to it, we don't hear how we actually empathize with 1+1=2 any more.

"Love ya, honey."

"Love ya back. What's for dinner?"

I see a majority consensus here about Schneider's own work. My favorite description is that his is the writing of a "lawman."

Break his rules, go to jail. It must be a frustration that Roger's been getting off scot free all this time. As has been pointed out, Schneider seems envious, and that ain't too innaleckshual. On the other hand, for the same reason fiery youths attack the status quo, Schneider's choice of target could be merely a calculation, if a precocious one.

There seems a bit of consensus too, the thumbnail of Gene the intellectual one and Roger the emotional one, and I'm not among it. It was a surprise to read this.

In fact, I'm in as much a stir among my parts about it as I am about the first reviews for "Avatar," with my pre-guess over at Rodge's "Your Movie Sucks" column. I may never make a good film critic after all.

Is everybody else right and me wrong? Or vice versa? A poster above characterized them as "a reporter" (Gene) vs "a writer" (Rodge). I like that.

Well, having done both, I see it this way: a reporter reports the facts and ostensibly leaves the emotional reaction up to the reader (tho' this is oft manipulated); a writer deals with the paintbrush-variable emotions s/he means to convey, arranging the facts accordingly.

A critic must view a work with his best guesses and feel of the creator's intentions in mind. "A writer" would make the better guesses by habit. It seems to me too, it requires more intellectual effort. Like a Borges story (nod to Roger) or Donald Barthelme's playfulness, the writer critic must also stand outside himself, in a more uncertain area, than would a straight reporter. The results would only appear less objective.

My audiencehood: before Roger's written reviews were available I'd check Rex Reed, Leonard Maltin and Gene Shalit in the papers. I finally settled on Maltin, as it was easiest to tell from his reviews whether I'd like a film whether he did or not. When Roger's written reviews came more available, it was even easier. I've enjoyed many a 2-1/2 star film, as I could tell from Roger's review that I would, and have avoided more than one 4-star 'cuz I could tell I wouldn't. That's how to be a critic in my book.

I enjoy Armond White's reviews nowadays, tho' I'm finding them more fun to read after I've seen the film. As I said, White writes in hardcore jazz. Not everybody loves hardcore jazz. Many pretend to.

Great reviews again, Rodge. I prob'ly won't go see "Collapse" because I already know too many chain-smokers in cold water flats with even more scoop on the gloom and doom. "Fahrenheit 911" was also a disappointment for that reason. Ebert: I dunno. The guy in "Collapse" resembles you in certain aspects.

  Then this:

By Sean Kelley on December 11, 2009 4:33 PM

Interesting article. From reading what Mr. Schneider had to say, it's clear the comparison to Armond White isn't fair. Schneider, regardless of whether you agree with his opinions, states his views clearly and intelligently, and carefully lays out his reasoning behind them. However, the only reasoning Armond White ever has for his opinions is that they're the exact opposite of the currently popular ones. His reviews are so incredibly dense, self-contradicting, and inane that reading each one is an exercise in endurance (although, I must admit that once in a while they can be pretty entertaining, from a sheer "What the f*ck is talking about?" perspective).

There were quite a few things that Schneider said that I disagreed with, though. Insight is not like throwing darts, where if you throw enough of them one is eventually going to hit the bull's eye. It's something you have or you don't, and someone who lacks it could write a million reviews and still not have a single one possessing it. The couple hundred reviews you wrote that Schneider referred to as "gems" seem to just be the ones where your opinions happened to mirror his own. And it's interesting that although Schneider finds your critical abilities to be so lacking, he still seems to read all of your reviews.

Also, what's with the Spielberg-hating? Did he honestly not find anything worthwhile in "E.T.," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Schindler's List," "Minority Report," etc., etc.? If he really sees no merit in any of those films, well, all I can say is I'm glad I'm not a "cerebral" movie-goer like he is.

  E.T. was Lassie From Outer Space, and not a particularly good episode; Raiders Of The Lost Ark was a minor ripoff of superior serials from the 1930s; Schindler’s List was total cheeseball schlock that was even quite offensive in its portrayal of mass murder; and Minority Report was a superior sci fi thriller for ¾s of the way. Then, like all Philip K. Dick works, it tanked, BIG TIME.

By sansho1 on December 11, 2009 7:09 PM

About Straw Dogs, Mr. Schneider wrote:

"The very thing that sticks out about the film is that it is amoral. The characters are shown doing crazy and violent things and little consequence is shown."

Admittedly, it's been a while since I last watched Straw Dogs. So please correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't all the antagonists either killed or sodomized, and rather explicitly? I shudder to think what Mr. Schneider would consider a "consequence".

  And what consequences do the leads face, since they were not exactly innocents? Again, simply not an example of reading in any sort of depth.

By Aimee on December 11, 2009 9:36 PM

My response to Dan Schneider is also a visceral one.

He's mean. His bad reviews are thoroughly unkind. There's no wit, no fun to his take-downs. He also seems to go very strongly one way or another on a film - genius, or swill, no acknowledgement of a film's capacity to be enjoyable despite its shortcomings.

He's also strangely obsessed with what other people think of a film. His major gripe with Sin City seems to be that it was well liked, that some people liked it more than Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. (I am one of those people).

He is oddly fixated on the fact that you are a well known film critic, he keeps mentioning it and then going out of his way to "take you down a peg". I disagree with your reviews all the time Roger, but I feel our differences are ideological, and often on subjective levels, rather than a symptom of you being "dense".

But ultimately, the thing that really repels me is that sneering, mean quality in Schneider's writing.

  Why I mention Ebert’s status should be obvious: my writing is for posterity. In 2110 no one will know nor care of Ebert’s reviews, save as cultural markers. Therefore I am doing him a favor by mentioning him as the most well known film critic of his day, one virtually irrelevant to that a century on. And, anyone who cannot get the wit in my writing is a dolt. Period.

  After more nonsense, some idiot cannot even get my name right:

By MoviesAreMyReligion on December 11, 2009 10:08 PM

Roger, have you read David Schneider's response to your praise?
Has to be one of the least classiest things I've read from a blogger. And I've seen some doozies, from myself included.


I dunno, maybe you'll like what he wrote, brutal honesty or something to respect like that. I myself hold that quality very high but his response approaches arrogance and is needlessly cruel.

He goes out of his way multiple times to insult the guy who sent you this link and, if what he's saying about the guy is true then 1) I really hope he didn't he use his real name when sending you this and 2) I hope this guy, wherever he is, is OK and this is very immature and not superior in any way of Schneider to use this a chance to attack a guy who, again if this is true, I pity more than I'd ever feel the need to insult.

I really don't think Schneider needed to do that, even if it is true, nor do I think his subtle bitterness about you not agreeing to be interviewed by him is very gracious after you dedicated a blog to his writing. He does acknowledge you were recovering from operation at the time but that's besides to point to me. You're Roger Ebert, what interview do you owe him or anybody else after all you've written?

Schneider is a great writer and, as you say, considerable critic but I'm shocked at how nasty a response he has given to what would seem to 90% of the other film-bloggers out there (including those excellent ones you wrote about a few months who all seemed pretty honored from what I read) some very good news.

If that's an analytical critic's mindset over a visceral, I'll take visceral thanks. But Jim Emerson is more my idea of a responsibly analytical critic and, as a Scanners regular, I know Jim can be sharp-tongued too (and, a few years ago, I was on the receiving end... and it toughened me up/ I learned from it and feel very thankful to Jim) but I can't ever picture him responding to acknowledgment the way Schneider has here. (In fact, David Bordwell acknowledges Jim all the time and Jim doesn't even comment, except maybe by returning the favor...)

Ebert: I was in ORs, ICUs and rehab much of 2007, and not even online.

He's fair enough in what he says about me, but he's taking a legal risk in what he says about the other two individuals.

I wonder what sort of person would "stalk" him? I've never had a stalker. Fingers crossed.

  My God, how people read only what they presume to be there. I’m a great writer, but I’m nasty for stating the truth about Tor. Now, I could have posted his emails, then and now, but why? Why do we live in a society that, in PC fashion, calls for truth above all else, unless it’s a truth no one likes? And, in what world does one sense bitterness over Ebert’s not being interviewed? It truly is scary how delusional some are. Which brings me to a critical juncture. Note Ebert’s reply. He’s never had a stalker. This is because he is a celebrity, and fawning (as shown in this thread and many others on his blog) is the norm. People want to curry the favor of the rich and powerful. Look at celebrity blogs. But, folks like me, who start from scratch, and tell things like it is, are ‘nobodies’ in the minds of sycophants like this last poster. This allows him to distort what I wrote, in my blog post, freely. You will rarely find that on Ebert’s blog, where he screens posts (or so I am told by a number of folks who have claimed to have commented onn the thread and not had their comments posted- which is, naturally- Ebert’s right) and where his opinions are not exactly designed to topple the oppressive status quo in things. In many ways, Ebert is like many Left Wing artist types who take ‘safe’ stands on things like being against rape, nuclear war, terrorism, and the BP Gulf oil spill.

  Then, a middle of the road commenter, on the right path, but not willing to take a stand:

By Lee Semsen on December 11, 2009 10:09 PM

When I first read this journal entry, nobody had submitted any comments, and if I’d responded right away, I might have said something original. All I can do now is comment on the comments (and that particular aspect of this thread has been cleverly handled, too). But I was surprised (Strunk and White would prefer “astonished”) at the number of contributors who declared that all art (and therefore all art criticism) is subjective … or maybe I was wrong to interpret that as “purely subjective.” If that were the case, this would be 1903, and we would all be running in panic from a looming locomotive. But most of the people who read your journal, or at least most of those who comment, know more about film than I do (and I used to think I knew quite a lot), so they necessarily bring a considerable amount of intellectual baggage, not just emotional baggage, to every movie they see. In fact, anyone who can write a complete sentence – a sentence tells a story, after all – will experience more than just a mere visceral reaction to any moving picture (film, television program, video game), assuming that it has a discernible narrative structure.
As an aside, I loved reading G. K. Chesterton’s defense of Charles Dickens, which I’d never seen before. Dickens was a certifiably great writer, and despite his shortcomings as a husband and father, also a great man. I first encountered the argument that Hitler was “great” in 1964, when I was in the eighth grade. I didn’t buy it then, either.
One more thing: I won’t comment on Dan Schneider’s film criticism because I haven’t read enough of it to give an informed opinion. But I have read hundreds of your reviews, Roger, and you have always impressed me as someone who not only knows the movies but knows the human heart, too, and someone who is generous both intellectually and emotionally. And as everyone says, a fine writer, and what else is a fine writer but a fine thinker with a pen or a keyboard?

  Then, more lies. I have never posted a comment on the IMDB message board outside of reposting edited versions of my own reviews. So, when one canot argue intelligently, ala Weeping Sam, lie:

By Chris S. on December 11, 2009 10:32 PM

Schneider has also gained himself a great deal of notice for trolling the IMDB message boards as "The Intellectual Everyman" and boasting about his all-encompassing talent and intellect that are far beyond those of any other human being. Ask him who directed The Third Man some time.

Maybe after familiarizing yourself with the boards you can do a lengthy profile of Marc Sigoloff or Alan Mount.

  Then, get personal. Again, my website is easy to use and read, and unlitteres with ads. Anyone who thinks it looks 1990s simply does not know what they are talking about, and has not come upon the thousands of bad movie blogs out there.

By Rob on December 11, 2009 11:04 PM

Schneider's writing is awfully dry, as if he were trying to impress some forbidding professor. As regards the website, 1997 called; it wants its web design back. We will pass over his attempts at fiction in generous silence.

And what does it say that Schneider now, on his website, prominently quotes praise of his reviews from a man he has churlishly referred to as "notoriously dense"? Hypocritical.

  How is it hypocritical to quote Ebert? I never said he was bad, merely pointed out his flaws. And I’ve even stated he has many reviews where he nails things. When one is emotional, that’s the pros and cons of criticism. Rob, join the idiots circle.

  Then more idiocy:

By Robert Moore on December 12, 2009 12:10 AM

About Armond White. . .
The big knock against him seems to be that he's a contrarian. He doesn't like what everyone else likes. In fact, the more people that like something, the more likely it is that he hates it.
Well, so what? Why should a film critic have to agree with the audience? Why should we all have to fall in line with the crowd? Are you so insecure in your views that one naysayer invalidates everything you believe?
We say we love freedom. Why do we get so upset when someone actually exercises it?

There is a racist element to to this strange hate cult that has arisen around White. Every discussion degenerates into vile name calling. The prevailing attitude: "How dare this uppity black man disagree with my opinion on this brightly packaged piece of formulaic crap?"
It is true that White manipulates his grading of movies (the headline of the article, etc.) simply to irk people. But, I find he is entirely consistent as to how he actually approaches criticism itself. I think his review of "District 9" (and his opinion of the reviews) was right on. Everyone fell all over themselves to give it a decent review and talk about the "anti-racism" message of the film. In truth, it was just another Hollywood movie about how bad racism is for white people (see "Guess Who's Coming to Supper?" "Mississippi Burning," "Crash," or "Invictus").

It seems clear that you don't have a problem with White. You got dragged into it. The people who involved you did it because if they can get the most respected film critic in the country to call White a "troll" then they have a cover for their hate. "Oh, we don't hate Armond White because he's black. We hate him because he's a bad critic. Roger Ebert says so."

This idea that you grade reviewers by how well their opinions line up with the public's is pure bunk.

P.S. Schneider is right about you. You lead with your heart, and you are, by far, the best writer among film critics. You also come across as far less condescending to the audience (us).

P.S.S. Schneider is completely wrong about Spielberg. If he is not the greatest movie maker alive, name one better.

Ebert: it showed very poor judgment for me to write that entry, and I will never write another like it.

  Ok, in 5 seconds or less: Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Theo Angelopoulos, Yasujiro Ozu, Woody Allen, Stanley Kubrick….imagine what that list would swell to in a few hours.

  Then, Ebert’s main sycophant re-emerges:

By Tom Dark on December 12, 2009 12:24 AM

Me: I prob'ly won't go see "Collapse" because I already know too many chain-smokers in cold water flats with even more scoop on the gloom and doom.

Ebert: I dunno. The guy in "Collapse" resembles you in certain aspects.

---Well, I've got more hair and mustache than he does. That's important.

---Oh! Wait! I just realized who he is. Mike Ruppert! Yup. Big name in tinfoil hat blogs, years now. The CIA says he's with the NSA and the NSA says he's with the CIA. Whereas, the DOD says he's with the ONI, and the ONI isn't talking. But they never talk to anybody. And the Astors speak only to God.

Ebert: Oh, yeah, Ruppert's got a history. But as I say:

There is controversy over Ruppert, and he has many critics. But one simple fact at the center of his argument is obviously true, and it terrifies me. That fact: We have passed the peak of global oil resources. There are only so many known oil reserves. We have used up more than half of them. Remaining reserves are growing smaller, and the demand is growing larger. It took about a century to use up the first half. That usage was much accelerated in the most recent 50 years. Now the oil demands of giant economies like India and China are exploding. They represent more than half the global poulation.

And you're not a little concerned?

  You see this on every blog- the sycophant and the massah at play, with the sycophant licking up the attention. Ugh!

  Pseudo-intellectualism alert:

By Greg Salvatore on December 12, 2009 12:40 AM

Jason Ihle on December 10, 2009 8:54 AM wrote:
I decided to disregard Schneider when I read his opinion of subtitling vs. dubbing in which he finds dubbing to be far superior.

Unless he likes making fun of how the lips don't match the words, I don't see how he could feel that dubbing is superior to subtitling. That's like saying that a translation is better than an original, for at least you get to hear the original language with subtitles, and subtitles match the meaning of the original words better than dubbing does.

As for other points brought up in this post, art should be a balance between the head and the heart, between the cerebral and the emotional. I tend to remember movies that either made me view the world differently from when I entered the theater, or the ones that made me feel differently about the world after I exited the theater. Movies that linger in my subconscious for the ideas they raise, or the characters they introduce, or the stories they tell. Movies that tell the truth about life and what life can be. But, in criticizing art, the greater failing is in shutting out an emotional reaction to a piece, and in criticizing entertainment, it's fatal.

If Dan Schneider is all cerebral, then he's no better than the people who praise the scientifically measured poetry in Yevgeny Zamyatin's book We, for while the poetry in that book is perfect scientifically, it contains one fatal flaw: it lacks beauty.

  Why dubbing is superior to subtitling 101: 1) it does not take up almost a third of the screen of a visual medium, 2) dubbing actually aids the character development when done well, 3) eyestrain is minimized, especially in bad Criterion Collection type subtitles of black and white films with white unbordered subtitles. Anyone who prefers subtitles when it and the dubbing are of equal quality, is truly an idiot. Subtitles are like prose translations of poetry, and dubbing is the poetry, just in a slightly different font.

  Pseudo-intellectualism alert (deux):

By Alfredo FD on December 12, 2009 3:46 AM

Good writing is essential to becoming an enduring critic, dear Roger. Good writing and/or being Boswell's friend.

But what is good writing? According to Dan Schneider, Borges "is an eminently quotable, but ultimately forgettable and puerile, writer." Plus, he's too political. Like García-Márquez and many Latin American writers... As a Latin American writer, I'm not offended. But it does make me wary of Dan's reviews. For God's sake, Borges' writings have been attacked for being apolitical but never for being too political. His personal politics did keep him from winning the Nobel Prize when all Latin American writers were expected to be left-wing, but his writings and his temperament are quite above and beyond contemporary politics.

And this is Dan's take on Faulkner (and Flannery O'Connor to boot): "Ok, so everyone has for years told me how great a writer William Faulkner was. So, I read As I Lay Dying- mediocre at best, and no real strengths at characterization are revealed. Instead, a bunch of yokel stereotypes. So, I mark that off as just one of those things. Then I read his Collected Stories. Atrocious! Nothing but stereotypes in every tale. The Southern grotesques are not as noxious as in, say, Flannery O’Connor, but the tales are all wooden, dull, and generally- a mess!"

And though he sort of likes The Catcher In The Rye, he thinks J.D. Salinger is overrated yet an acquired taste in the same way that Terence Malick is an acquired taste. IMHO that's just sloppy criticism. Not intellectual above emotional or vice-versa, but sloppy. (Though I agree with him about The Thin Red Line being a great film. And I do think it deserved more stars than Saving Private Ryan from a good writer like Mr. Ebert. But that's beside the point.)

  Borges’ wan tales are simple-minded political allegories, and have long been acknowledged as such. What he has been attacked for is his politics being allegorical vs. other Latino writers, and not naked. But, the tales are still stale and predictable. In short, they do not hold up to a universal audience. IT’s a bane of much Third World writing and art, which panders only to its own clannish tendencies of ethnic, religious, and temporal closeness. So, in a word, WRONG is Alfredo (bring me the head of!). And his idea of taking me to task is to quote me and simply say no- aka, the Bartleby gambit. Yawn. What many of these types do not get is how utterly generic and unoriginal they are. I have argued and defeated, with ease, their wrguments many times. They offer nothing new, and are dispatched easily. See?

  Then, on Day 3, another of Ebert’s main sycophants chimes in:

By Marie Haws on December 12, 2009 4:16 AM

I have one thing to say:

Harold & Maude - 1.5 stars.

And you are so very wrong.

Actually, I have a lot to say but it really comes down to that:

"He didn't like Harold & Maude."

Ergo, Roger Ebert is... human. Gasp. :)

But don't worry, I'm not about to hold it against you or anything! I still read your stuff all the time.


  Then this:

By Christopher Small on December 12, 2009 5:07 AM

I cannot see the sense in critiquing another critic. One of the key points to any type of critical writing is self-criticism, Schneider appears to have led himself into a corner, a corner where the movies mean nothing special to him. Powerful movies evoke powerful emotions, that isn't in doubt; but to call a movie like "E.T" or "Jaws", Hollywood schlock shows the lack of versatility in his criticism. He has a wonderful turn of phrase and writing style, but I think that a film should be reviewed for what it evokes, whether that be the wonderment of "Star Wars" or the haunting imagery in "Aguirre, De Zorn Gottes". I find it refreshing that such a prominent critic like Ebert is able to let his emotions affect his reviews. I'm fifteen and my favourite movie is "Juno", so shoot me - it made me feel great.

Ebert: I'll line up in front of the same firing squad.

  The perils and displeasures of seeing a mind go to waste, at such an age. Again, does the writing of hundreds of in depth film reviews that challenge critical dogma do anything BUT show that film is special? Idiots. I feel like Sanjuro the samurai in declaring so many so similar an epithet.

  Now, comes a post from a guy on that Empire website’s daisy chain. I actually had inside info on their lovefest from one of their particpants (ooh, a mole, a spy, an infiltrator- yes, a ringer, which was, not so ironically, how I found out much about Tor’s nonsense years ago), only to receive, a week later, one of the most hilarious and silly emails ever, from this guy, who did not realize that by emailing me, I got his IP # and full name. The email was pathetic and threatening, funny and sad, as this toolshed could not even get his facts straight. And if one checks out the online forum, one can see that, for months prior, these daisy chainers were hand- and blowjobbing each other until they got a whiff of Ebert’s post. Then, one could hear them almost choking on each others’ cum as they swallowed reality. The irony is that, right at the time of this comment, I had emailed Ebert re: his earlier question about who would cyberstalk me, and pointed to some of the members of this bunch, and their pasts and motives. So, when Ebert cringes, at the end of this post, he is actually cringing at the circle-jerkers, who are so out of touch in their fantasy world that they think he’s cringing at me.

By Adam G on December 12, 2009 7:27 AM

Yesterday, YR posted a link to a page on the Empire Online forums entitled Top 10 Worst Dan Schneider Reviews. As Pigeon Army, I was a part of that thread. I will admit, without an ounce of remorse, that I think Schneider is a bad critic. Part of this stems from not liking his opinions - but that's not enough, and I appreciate the case of that not being enough to malign the man's career. I find something much more unlikeable about his work in the smug, superior way he goes about things. It's his way or the highway, and I just can't abide it for a second. He has an almost-unfathomable regard for his own self, and I think the debacle surrounding that aforementioned thread highlights it perfectly.

The story begins with another user making this humourous thread on a forum. He posted links to reviews of Dan's he found he particularly bad, we marveled, laughed, and generally expressed our distaste of the man.

Two months after the thread had practically died, Schneider wrote this -


I do not deny we made ad hominem attacks on him, and our florid insults probably deserved reproach. What I don't agree with is the utterly vitrolic, self-righteous, hypocritical nature of the response. Alongside the ridiculous hyperventilating he presents, hypothesising that the internet is swarming with 'cyberstalkers' out to get him (when he most likely had to search for the forum to find it), he believes that addressing a few film fans on a forum somewhere who laugh at his work is a necessity; "it’s precisely because folks like this exist that the need for essays like this need to exist, to assist future cyberhistorians and sociologists," he says. The fact that he calls us "vicarious vermin, so socially maladapted that they can only spend their time at a computer to feel joy" is mean-spirited, bitchy, utterly devoid of humour, and most importantly - arrogant (he also calls me an "ass", which is funny in a schoolyard sort of way, but not unwarranted). The idea that anyone who disagrees with him is wrong seems to be his primary belief, and it is, for want of a better word, sickening.

I apologise for bringing this onto your blog, Roger - while I may not always agree with you, I respect you as a film critic and have always believed you love films, and more importantly, love people who love films. But I just don't get the same feeling with Dan Schneider - with him, it's loving people who love what he loves about films. And I'm not sure I want to love what he loves about films. I don't think he deserves the kindness and mature conjecture you've afforded him, because, quite frankly, I don't think he's capable of reciprocating it in any capacity.

PS: I find it heavily ironic that Schneider lambasted you for talking about Ingrid Bergman's lips on your Casablanca DVD commentary when he once wrote this about Oja Kodar in a review of F For Fake -

"See it, think about it, and let it soak in. But don’t be embarrassed if you find that you’ve soiled yourself in the morning dreaming of Ms. Kodar. After all, there is a very good reason Welles has her beauteous form in the film, and you know that you’re only lying to yourself if you deny it."


Ebert: (*Cringe*)

  The upshot of this and some later posts is that Adam and his suckbuddies actually provided proof to Ebert that, outside his own safely moderated blog, there be sickos! Thanks, toolsheds, for making my point! What always tears at such losers, like them, or Weeping Sam, is that they so crave my attention, then yell when I give it and annihilate them. Yes, there is some humor, but it’s all at their expense, and that’s what outrages them.

  A few posts later he continues:

By Adam G on December 12, 2009 7:41 AM

I also take great offence at Robert Moore's assumption that people who dislike Armond White's criticism do so because he's black. I don't give a good-goddamn what colour the man is, I don't like his writing, pure and simple. I find him to be almost outrageously contrarian, and furthermore, I find him to be a writer who seems to know exactly what buttons to press to get the most publicity and then pushes them like a pair of siblings on a long road trip (his review of Coraline is a fantastic example of this). I also find he writes sloppily, his reviews rarely forming a cohesive whole and seemingly forming none-too-snappy vignettes that are meant to be snappy.

While I can see racism occasionally spurt through in the comments of some of the less tactful or understandable, particularly on Rotten Tomatoes, I think that Robert's comment tars everyone who dislikes White with a brush that, in itself, can be offensive if applied to broadly. I don't care what Ebert says about White, I don't care what Jen Yamato of RT says about White, I don't care what that guy from Slashfilm says about White. All I care is what I know about White. And what I know about White is that he is a bad critic. Neither race nor the role of critics has anything to do with it.

  This is the sleight of hand gambit, to try and establish that, after months of online circle-jerking, he can be ‘objective’, even though he still writes and acts like a child. Baby want a bah-bah? There is then an odd double posting of the prior comment on Borges, that was likely lost, and which Ebert comments on:

By Alfredo FD on December 12, 2009 11:04 AM

Good writing is essential to becoming an enduring critic, dear Roger. Good writing and/or being Boswell's friend….And I do think it deserved more stars than Saving Private Ryan from a good writer like Mr. Ebert. But that's beside the point.)

Ebert: If you think Borges is forgettable and puerile...I dunno...*sigh.*

  Need I define puerile? And if a tale’s end can be discerned less than a quarter of the way through it is, almost by definition, forgettable. Let’s not forget, Ebert’s lone attempt at fictive writing resulted in Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, so any fiction critiques are not exactly coming from a master. Then some more idiocy, including a distended dissertation on oil as energy, and this gem of idiocy:

By Indian Idiot (H.W.) on December 12, 2009 12:38 PM

Mikki Saturn quoting Schneider: "Ebert's definition buys into the Joseph Campbellian Heroic Artist Hokum that has long been disproved"

Anyone who makes that statement and thinks that he's being clever in so doing, does not deserve to be called an intellectual, in fact, I doubt he can even rightly be called intelligent.

  Bonus points, though, for the commenter’s nominal admission of his intellect. Too bad this guy is not as honest:

By Jake on December 12, 2009 12:51 PM


What has Dan Schneider accomplished that you haven't? He doesn't even champion little-known films or underrated filmmakers like you have. Were you not one of the first critics in the U.S to give Werner Herzog's Aguirre: The Wrath of God a good review for instance?

All Schneider has done is set up a personal website along with everyone else on the internet as a kind of shrine for his opinions for all things entertainment. Opinions that are almost always cranky and caustic. Websites that are devoted to criticism (i.e, trash talking) are a dime a dozen.

Besides I haven't seen anything Schneider has produced that was worth talking about or worth discussing like the criticisms of Matt Zoller Seitz (The House Next Door, Moving Image Source), Adrian Martin (Rouge), Jonathan Rosenbaum, Andrew Tracy (Cinemascope, Reverse Shot), Kent Jones (Film Comment), Michael Sicinski (Cinemascope, The Academic Hack) or Zach Campbell (Elusive Lucidity). Criticism that has fascinating or exciting ideas about cinema or the films question and do not merely evaluate movies on the basis of whether they were bad or good. I can get that kind of crap from the Consumer Report-style reviews over at Rotten Tomatoes or some such.

  I’ve championed many little known films- go read. I actually challenge the dogmas that the people this guy cites promote. My reviews are essays and esays replete with ideas, all good, some new, some not, but all interesting, well written, and engaging. To those with open minds- and therein the caveat that explains the reactions on this blog.

  Then, Ebert’s favorite sycophant asks the grand man to patrt his cheeks for a good ol’ rimming:

By Tom Dark on December 12, 2009 1:05 PM

People? People? Where else in cultural history does an ordinary jimoke some-thousand rows back in the audience get to talk directly to a multimillion-reader guy like Roger Ebert, huh? What if we all got to hobnob with, like, Robert Benchley, eh? Give this generous man a BIG round of applause. If Schneider didn't live in an ivory tower with no toilet, this is how he'd do things. He'd write a lot better too.

So. For years I check Roger's reviews; they're the most lucid so a moviegoer can decide on a film whether said critic likes it or no. I prob'ly won't be seeing "Collapse," I say, for reasons given jocularly (basically I already know a bunch, and there're questions as to who Ruppert's working for).

Ebert: Oh, yeah, Ruppert's got a history. But as I say:

There is controversy over Ruppert, and he has many critics. But one simple fact at the center of his argument is obviously true, and it terrifies me. That fact: We have passed the peak of global oil resources. There are only so many known oil reserves. We have used up more than half of them. Remaining reserves are growing smaller, and the demand is growing larger. It took about a century to use up the first half. That usage was much accelerated in the most recent 50 years. Now the oil demands of giant economies like India and China are exploding. They represent more than half the global poulation.

And you're not a little concerned?

O God of Brevity, help. Having a science brain for a dad made me aware of the peak oil problem as a kid. Dad was worried about the social eventualities back in the 50s. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. worried it into a 1976 novel, SLAPSTICK (I still chuckle about "The Duke of Michigan"); the underlying theme was what will become of society once we are no longer "jazzed with electricity."

I just counted: I've still got 938 unread e-mails from a 2005 discussion group on this subject. I addressed prob'ly 2200 in detail. These were admirably intelligent people and I spent every waking hour fascinated until I dropped from exhaustion and bowed out. Every detail, including philosophical and spooky tinfoil hat questions, was addressed very thoroughly.

An important name, which is too far back for me to look up, is of a participant who's designed a self-sufficient solar powered light rail engine. Just as important is his experience trying to get Marin Co. CA to consider it, and the incredible bureaucracy involved. I was so excited I contacted billionaire Karl Eller, an Arizona homeboy. Eller's a philanthropist and Arizona is very big on light rail. Karl'd answered my other stuff but ignored that one.

Equally important is the report of a participating engineer who, in 1974, visited a farmer in Iowa who'd created a totally energy self-sufficient farm, including hydrogen fuel for his pickup truck. A simple combination of wind, water, solar power, electricity for cracking water into H2 and O. No danger, no great difficulty. H2 is in fact far safer than gasoline, despite the Hindenburg. Remember the Pinto.

Other odds and ends long known: my dad made our summer camp pretty close to energy self-sufficient with the simplest solar device you can imagine: some tubing and a glass case.

At age fifteen, hitchhiking, a Pargas propane truckdriver picks me up. What kinda mileage ya get on this thing? 38 MPG, he says. Wow! How? Pargas has a patented propane adapter for all its trucks, he says. They'll sit on it until there's a real fuel crisis, then come up looking like big heroes, he says. This was long before the rigged "energy crisis" of Carter's administration. Pargas didn't come out with it. They knew.

Not to mention Charlie Jones, the Cornell U prof who went to Costa Rica some years ago to try setting up a hydrogen-power system on a gov't grant. Am still waiting to hear. Not to mention what both China and Germany are doing with solar cells.

The hydrogen fuel-cell proposition is needless. The supposedly damning statement that hydrogen itself isn't efficient enough is perfectionist nonsense. This country succeeded extremely well on steam engines that any schoolboy knows were only 3% efficient.

Never mind that we've got enough shale oil to last us some more centuries -- U.S. and Canada have the biggest deposits in the world. It'd raise the price of fuel, but work the same as crude oil.

Never mind the recent Russian geological proposition that oil isn't really "fossil fuel." They're saying it's created continually somewhere down in the mantle.

Much more, but this is plenty to demonstrate that "alternative energy" is not only possible without great difficulty, it's already working for various independent-minded individuals. I had such neighbors in Calaveras County, CA. They lived very cozily quite off any power grid.

My conclusion in that huge discussion was that we're not doomed because of a lack of energy possibilities. Africa or the like would be the next America, starting as simple as we did. What's dooming us is a lack of will to develop new basics.

And what terrifies me, Roger, is the politics of self-interest and habit, from Hooded Global Conspirators in Undisclosed Mountain Boardrooms down to somebody sputtering around in a smoke-leaking 1973 Lincoln Continental. It is equally factual that energy monopolies can be rendered unnecessary. But try pulling a bull out of a pen full of cows in heat. In this case, it needs done. If Ruppert hasn't realized that, he's selling gloom and doom with some other motive in mind.

(PS the nuclear alternative is INCREDIBLY dangerous. It's not impossible that we're already doomed by this alone. For this I've got better than first hand info. I could cuff my source on the side of the head and rassle him to the ground next time I see him, as he happens to be one of my brothers. Unless he's tougher than me by now, that smart little bastard.)

Since I've read all Ruppert's schtick over the years already, and read all the accusations, I doubt "Collapse" will feed me stuff I don't already know. What remains would be curiosity: I haven't had a chance to inspect his demeanor closely. Is your BS detector good? So far yes. So what's the probability I'll go in, decide by the way Ruppert talks whether he believes what he's telling the camera, and go out? Sounds high. I might go see something else and pop into "Collapse" for a few minutes.

But for you who haven't considered this stuff, Ruppert might be a good place to start, just caveat that you're not stampeded into a panic. Ruppert may indeed be what his critics accuse him of, a psy-op. All you've got is your intuitions and consequent reasoning, good or ill. For that, I'd stand silently next to Roger with arms folded, guarding his 4-star banner.

Ebert: So all those cheap energy methods exist and are known, and...?

  Logorrhea, thy name is Tom Dark! Get the shit out of the craw, baby! Then, back to grade school idiocy:

By Rob H on December 12, 2009 1:20 PM

Dan Schneider's pettiness is on full display in his rebuttal of your assessment of Hitler. Schneider's mention of your name does nothing to augment his own appraisal of the film. It's sole purpose is to present his dubious thesis that you are "not a student of history." Strangely, he then goes on to commit three glaring errors in his own analysis:

1. Your review does not take Denby to task. You merely answer his rhetorical question. This is a small point, perhaps, but it illustrates Schneider's struggles in reading comprehension.
2. More troubling, his conclusion does not follow from the evidence. It is, in fact, a non-sequitur. Your reluctance to call Hitler a great man is not inconsistent with a thorough understanding of the historical facts. His beef with you is historiographical, which is to say, a matter of interpretation. It's worth noting that Schneider seems to side with extreme intentionalists, which puts him squarely in the minority among historians.

3. He builds a strawman from an out of context quote and beats the shit out of it. You never claimed that Hitler "waltzed on the world stage and had everything fall into his lap." On the contrary, you explicitly recognize that Hitler unleashed unimaginable evil. It's just that you doubt that accomplishing great terror betokens greatness itself. That he misses this nuance calls his own critical faculties into question.

Finally, one can never trust the opinion of a man who thinks Hitler is a great but Spielberg is not.

  1) Ebert squarely groin jobs Denby- read, idiot! 2) Even Ebert concedes I am right re: Hitler’s greatness, a little later. 3) I NEVER claimed that Ebert claimed that Hitler waltzed onto the world stage- a classic strawman that claims I strawmanned. Ach du Lieber Gott in Himmel!

  Then this:

By RobertKCole on December 12, 2009 1:57 PM

On a completely separate note from the discussion of film criticism, this blog post vividly illustrates the deconstruction of traditional broadcast media & publishing paradigms into an interactive community conversation.

Roger Ebert has once again (perhaps not even intentionally) leveraged media and technology to advance the role of film analysis and intellectual exchange.

An active discussion through social media of critics reflecting on the work of other critics, but remaining framed on the original artistic work itself - especially in a public forum - is remarkable and something that was not even remotely possible a decade ago.

Enabling individuals to become a part of this process, I am certain, will help to inspire create a new generation of film makers - not beholden to figuring out what critics like, but more fully understanding the essence of what truly makes a great film great.

the depth of discussion by the community is also refreshing. The process is both fascinating and refreshing. The social media revolution has established a milestone.

  Milestone, yes. Good, no, unless the thin unraveling of all the stupidity and pettiness of the society at large is good. After more oil talkem a couple of Tom dark nonsequiturs to capture the glow of Ebert.

By Tom Dark on December 12, 2009 4:08 PM

Ebert: So all those cheap energy methods exist and are known, and...?

---"?" indeed. I'm not gonna suggest "Collapse" should end that way since I've already clobbered myself with a guess about "Avatar," but that's assuredly how to close a discussion like this.
This is wrong. It has not been proven, for the reasons I mentioned earlier.

By Tom Dark on December 12, 2009 4:58 PM

Ebert Twitter: When a dog barks at you while wagging its tail, is it saying, "Hello, I must be going"?

---What, you don't speak Dog?

  Later, after more oil nonsense, and idiots (surprise!), Tom Dark (truly a sciolist of the highest order) raves on about oil- I’ll spare you. Then this:

By Jonathan on December 12, 2009 9:26 PM



That link says all you need to know about Mr. Schneider. Paranoid, borderline-psychotic, semi-libellious rantings of someone who believes he is bigger than he is. That you'd even give him the air of publicity is a massive disappointment.

  Let’s see: a site with billions of hits. Many threats and attacks from online websites and emails from idiots and online threads (see the Empire circle-jerkers above) and I’m paranoid, because I supply proof. The proof is supplied to show the opposite, and there is nothing libelous when the truth is shown. Yes, Jonathan, someone is paranoid, and he resides in your looking glass!

  After more nonsense, we get to the post where Ebert basically shows that his sycophants are in such a rush to go down on him that they do the inexcusable: ignore reality. Witness:

By S M Rana on December 13, 2009 4:05 AM

Like it or not, Hitler was a great man, as were Stalin and Mao, and Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great before them....Schneider

This is strange, if not funny. In that sense, the devil himself would be great, and Jack the Ripper and darling Lecter eligible for the title.

@ Vertigo

Certainly better than Psycho and Birds and his most interesting. Life is indeed strange enough to end up loving a non existent woman, and boy, would it be torturous. One can forget petty inconsistencies.

Ebert: Great is properly a measure of stature, not virtue.

  So, one wonders if, after the great man spoke, his sycophants would retract their prior condemnations of the reality of what I simply stated. Apparently not:

By Peter on December 13, 2009 12:54 PM

Even this cursory examination of his work reveals Schneider, some good thoughts notwithstanding, as the kind of film writer increasingly becoming irrelevant to the general public. The tendency to dismiss "Hollywood tripe" and to regard emotional engagement with a film as hopeless bias is exactly why the Oscars telecast is in a ten-year scramble for ratings - the Academy has clearly come to regard mass appeal as a flaw rendering even the finest film unfit for recognition.

Just for the record, Roger, it is more or less common wisdom that your emotional engagement with films and your unwillingness to dismiss popular fare as necessarily worthless are as much a part of your appeal as the quality of your writing. I love Boogie Nights and the Lives of Others, I think Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark are masterpieces, and I have no use for a critic who declares those opinions incompatible. No one opens a review of Avatar to find out how it compared to Brokeback Mountain, and your ability to recognize that has kept you relevant for forty years.

Film is both art and entertainment, and a critic unwilling to engage it on both levels has every reason to be bitter about your popularity; he can be certain his will never compare.

  In fact, just the opposite is true. Cosmoetica is relevant and huge BECAUSE it stands out from the other generic hack writers online, like those Ebert called part of a Golden Age. Cosmoetica flourishes because there are many people growing tired of the condescension and infantilization of culture. Even Ebert becomes, as film critic Ray Carney notes, just a marketing tool for the studios, with his all too rare excursion sinto critical depths. Get a clue, Peter, your anti-elitist snobbery is so Clinton-Bush Era. Excelsior:

By Grant on December 13, 2009 5:16 PM

By coincidence (or perhaps fate?!) I read this entry shortly after watching "The Virgin Spring" and subsequently reading Schneider's review, which includes this astonishing admission, mentioned previously by Jason and Greg: [The Criterion DVD of "The Virgin Spring" offers] "a choice between subtitles and a dubbed English soundtrack, which I’ll always listen to, if given a choice. After all, film is a visual medium not meant to entail reading, which distracts from the visual element. To prefer subtitling to dubbing is akin to saying one is a music aficionado, yet one who only watches the music videos of songs."

Maybe Schneider ought to critique himself there. Here's an instance where I think emotion counts: If I don't understand the language the actors are speaking, I may not be able to pick up on subtleties and nuances in their delivery, but I have to believe that SOMETHING comes across in their original performance that is lost in dubbing.

  No, not when the dubbing is well done. Your beliefs have little to do with external reality.

By Jay on December 13, 2009 5:57 PM

"Yet, Ebert is notoriously dense. He thinks that Steven Spielberg is a great filmmaker, and has panned many great films while praising schlock from the above mentioned hack, as well as the "Star Wars" films, and many other Hollywood junk fare"

I can't help but think that Schneider is being the dense one by simply dismissing these types of films or filmmakers because they're "Hollywood junk" and speaking in that "matter of fact" tone while doing it. I'm sure Schneider has many good comments that I'd agree or disagree with, but biasness like his make it very difficult to take him seriously.

I great film brings out emotion in me. A great film like Raiders Of The Lost Ark or Jaws does that better then no other film for me personally. I love analyzing and dissecting films, but first and foremost I want to be entertained. i want to escape and be pulled in to their world. I can't think of better examples then such "Hollywood junk" as Indiana Jones or Star Wars.

One of the reasons I love reading Ebert's reviews is because he doesn't view it from a high horse. I can only imagine how many snobby bloggers will see Avatar wanting to rip it apart at every turn. Essentially, they judge the film before they see it. I get the feeling that Schneider does this a lot.

  Yet, even Ebert admits that my wiping the slate clean for every review is on eof my strengths. So eager to curry favor are these types that they do not even READ what Ebert writes. Then, even Ebert does not read:

By Dave on December 13, 2009 7:30 PM

Mr. Schneider is a joke.

I arrive at this conclusion not having read any of his film criticism.

I'm a graduate student in philosophy and a few years ago while doing some research, I stumbled onto an interview Mr. Schneider conducted with Daniel Dennett.

Mr. Schneider's questions would span paragraphs, full of faux-intellectual preening and self-referential remarks.

I get the impression that Mr. Schneider is a man deeply in love with every thought he ever had and every sentence he ever uttered. One really should read in in order to get a sense of just how big of fool this man is.

One of my 'favorite' questions:

Schneider: "Yes, you have often stated that religiots conveniently make their gods always just beyond scientific purview. The same can be said with more terrestrial (or extraterrestrial) claims of supernature. When I was six, I drowned in a lake, and recall seeing my body floating above ‘me,’ yet I did not have the classic tunnel of light experience. In fact, most research shows that the popular idea of going toward the light and seeing some religious figure (Jesus, Mohammed, the Buddha, etc.) is less common than portrayed. Yet, I did have what might be called a mystic experience. Yet, as I have aged, I realize this was my mind under stress, and perhaps an early expression of my creative and abstract thought processes- ones which led me to poetry; although I always had a way with words. Why was I able to make such a distinction while others cannot- be they of aliens, gods, or the like?"

How exactly does one answer this nonquestion?
I think Dennett did an admirable job:

Dennett: "I have no idea."

Ebert: Useful conversational tactic: Bring up question as a prompt to self to bring up answer.

  Note, Dennett, as he does in the whole interview, shows an utter lack of intellectual engagement, and relies on a semi-joke. But it was a really serious question, and I merely used a personal experience to frame it, as is done in countless television interviews, many of which Ebert has participated in. There was no answer, though- not from me nor Dennett, which is why Dennett was such a disappointing subject. In short, if you asked him anything outside his realm, where he had to cogitate, laziness was the reply. Sort of like Ebert’s sycophants, eh? So, no, Roger, it was not solipsism, nor anything of the sort, but a big whiff of the bat from the Mighty Dennett who done struck out when afforded an opportunity to actually state something of depth on an are he has made himself a public champion of. But, no, he had ZERO to say without a script. Then more piffle, including a joke from Ebert and a belch from Tom Dark. Then this, from someone who is maybe more clueless than any other poster so far:

By Bill C, Canon C on December 13, 2009 10:50 PM

So,where do I read reviews written by Dan Scheider? (I mean if wanted to) Is there a link?

  Then more interplay from Ebert sycophants like Tom Dark, Keith Carrizosa, and S.M. Rana, and this:

By DreamMorpheus on December 14, 2009 8:05 AM

I completely agree with you (Ebert) about Spielberg. Dismissing a commercially successful artist because of his success is an easy fallacy to fall into, but it's one I see "intellectual" film, music, and literature critics fall into frequently, and it's frustrating. It truly does take a keen artistic sensibility to create art that can be enjoyed almost universally.

Schneider seems to me the kind of person that would say something outlandish about the Beatles with a straight face. Dismissing Star Wars is about as audacious as dismissing the aforementioned gods of guitar pop. But just because you're audacious doesn't mean you are right. In fact, I feel like a lot of Spielberg's more recent work has received FAR too little critical regard. (Munich, Catch Me If You Can, Minority Report). It's kind of amazing to me that so few people even saw Munich, where to me it stands as one of the most emotionally powerful thrillers of the decade.

One of the things I love about reading the reviews on this website is how rarely you dismiss anything at all. (There are only a couple of instances where I felt you unfairly dismissed a great film, and I'm sure you hear about most of them all the time) I imagine it's hard for any critical mind of advancing years to always be fair to the new, the different, and the young. You appear to be one of those seemingly rare older people who kind of remember what it was like to be young. (Although it's possible that it's just authority figures that tend to forget this.)

  I dismiss Spielberg BECAUSE of his bad art; his popularity has zero to do with it. I dismiss Jean Cocteau and Pier Paiolo Pasolini, as well, and they are not popular at all. But they share with Spielberg a canon of bad films. Similarly, I do not dislike all of Ebert’s film reviews; I state that a good portion are not good pieces of criticism because they rely on emotionalism in the face of manifestly poor filmmaking. Period. Or not:

By Ethan Shuster on December 14, 2009 10:54 AM

OK, there are too many comments to this article for me to really read through them all at this point, so forgive me if it's been said before, but...

One of the reasons I enjoy Roger's critiques is the main reason Schneider doesn't like them. While there is a place for specific, technical film criticism, but I feel that that's different than a "film review" for the general public. I read a Roger Ebert review to get a hint about whether or not I will like a movie, though that doesn't mean if he likes it, I will assume I will too. There's a difference between "is this a good film?" and "is this a film I will enjoy?" Nothing against Schneider, but I think his version of film critique is a more academic one, whereas Roger's is as he said, an emotional one.

One thing about Roger's more "emotional" type of review is that he doesn't hide the fact that this is his opinion, and even explains why. I must admit I even appreciate certain reviews where Roger admits that while he feels like he shouldn't like a movie, he still does. Or when he dislikes a film so much he either goes off on a tangent or is really just resentful that it is so bad.

In short, I do like Roger's reviews because of his writing ability, not necessarily for an academic analysis of film technique. After all, while I hate to see people like a badly made movie, haven't you ever seen a movie that while the technique is nothing special, the writing carries it? Or vice versa?

  Ethan, not content with initial idiocy, launches into more:

By Ethan Shuster on December 14, 2009 11:19 AM

My first post mentioned my opinion on Roger's writing. I didn't add my opinion on Schneider. Now, I admit this is probably the first I've ever read of Schneider's writing, but reviewing another critic's review does seem really odd. And it's also rather immature if you ask me. Aside from the questionable practice of quoting others so often, I feel like it's another high level of "snobbery". I get a sense that his real point is, "That guy's really popular but he shouldn't be, cuz I'm better than he is! See, I can prove it!"

Would a technical analysis of a film ever give us a fun review of a bad movie. Roger writes some of the most entertaining bad movie reviews that I will often read a one-star review for a movie I never had any intention of seeing. my favorite remains his suggestion that the cast and crew of Bad Boys 2 should be sentenced to community service. :)

  Ah, the envy trope. Why, Ethan, only you have come upon that!

By M on December 14, 2009 3:43 PM

It is my opinion that there is something like being too charitable and certainly your response counts as that. As i read Mr.schneider's writing a familiar feeling of exhaustion washed over me. I have met many people like him, it is the major occupational hazard of anyone who works in the arts. He reminds me of film students who have just discovered snobbery and actively revel in the sense of power it provides. It sucks all the passion out of a field that by definition is nothing without passion and worse, it is boring to boot. The whole thing reminded me of quote i picked up from an internet comedy writer:

"How many decades of cynicism did it take to forge that smirk, Arnie? It makes me tired just looking at it"

  M, I guarantee you, you’ve never met anyone like me; not even close. There are many talkers, but only a handful of walkers. Talk about cynicism! And these idiots are so reflexively clueless to it. Then, back to the sycophants, with Marie Haws chiming in. Then, a grand idiot, who cannot even get his disses straight, but at least admits he’’s an idiot in the end:

By Sean Moorhead on December 15, 2009 1:25 PM

The more I read of Schneider's work, the less I respect him as a critic.

First of all, despite his self-proclaimed status as a literati, his writing is frequently ungrammatical, atrociously punctuated, overreliant on profanity, and full of unprofessional shorthand (like "1" for "one"). Second, he thinks that there are objective criteria for artistic quality. (There aren't.) Third, he thinks that he alone is qualified to determine and apply those objective criteria.

Some choice quotes:

"I'm a great critic, and [Jacques] Rivette shd [sic] stick to a medium he knows, and leave the writing for the pros." (Says the man with no formal literary education, as he misspells the word "should".)

"My point is few people can see [James Joyce]’s writing with an objective eye. Few not named Schneider, that is. Let’s hit the poems & show how each might’ve been improved."

"Oscar Wilde is 1 of those few artists it seems almost inconceivable to believe could have written anything badly. But he did. Like Shakespeare, Goethe, Dante, Homer, etc., [Oscar Wilde] too penned a goodly amount of the mediocre- & outright shit."

"[The French] gave us Jean Luc-Goddard, and he single handily [sic] destroyed the art of filmmaking."

"[Jean] Cocteau was the ultimate bourgeois poseur"

And finally, the pinnacle of irony:

"Perhaps the most amusing sort of idiot online is the wannabe hipster, who thinks he’s smart, but whose every utterance reveals cluelessness."

So there.

By Sean Moorhead on December 15, 2009 1:33 PM

Eh, nuts, I forgot my favorite Schneider quote:

"Given my status as a writer, & practicing its highest form- poetry- at its highest level, I have often found the bastardization of language to be most troublesome."

By Sean Moorhead on December 15, 2009 2:39 PM

One final note: the Goddard quote was from another, equally irritating critic. My mistake.

  Sean mistakes non-grammatical with style and so forth. Profanity is rare, in my writing, but, as it is a natural part of the human condition, I will use it, and do so, well but rarely. Yet again, though, the trope of quoting some great writing and saying it is not because….well, just because, dammit!

  Here an admission from Ebert:

By Chris Perry on December 15, 2009 6:46 PM

I hate it when a reader will point to a critic's reviews of two wildly disparate films and complain that the critic "thought ____ was better than ___," as if every review a critic has ever written is a numbered entry in a lifelong master list in which every one of those entries holds a specific rank. It is admittedly confusing when I do things like, for example, give Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant 2.5/5 stars while giving Werner Herzog's partially related The Bad Lieutenant 3/5 stars yet carry on to say Ferrara's is still the better film. I've taken to calling the logic that I employ in my own criticism the "Roger Ebert School of Criticism." One thing I like about your reviews, Mr. Ebert, is that you seem to approach every film as its own beast with its own intentions, grammar, and cosmology. This is what I believe allows you to rank a "bad" film higher than a "good" film, and I suspect this to be one of the things that mystifies and, occasionally, enrages your detractors. I have no idea if my description of the methodology I've given your name really has anything to do with your personal approach to reviewing films; but, even if it doesn't, the subtext I've picked up from reading your writing has taught me to evaluate a film based on the job that it sought to do--and not on how it compares to other films. If I've found that a good film fails at its mission, I have no trouble giving it a rating lower than a weaker film that does everything of which it is capable. Readers want criticism to be a contest in which all potential subjects are pitted against one another; true criticism, to me, is analysis of that object--taking historical position and scope into account, but ultimately being an analysis of the object itself.

Ebert: You're pretty close regarding my methodology. Let's being by saying the star rating system is useful only for giving life's little bean-counters a way to compare two reviews.

Let me put it this way. If I had ever in my life finished as high as seventh in the mile run, I would have deserved 3.5 stars, minimum. The guy in first, 3.0, unless he set a new personal record.

  Then more sycophant stroking. Then, finally, after a few days disseminating on my e-list, a fan of mine chimes in, and this was a guy who was an editor on Wikipedia, who became a fan after those stalkers (no, it’s paranoid to assert such a thing) repeatedly tried to defame and harass me and those I interviewed. Quoth:

By Gumul Aziwalla on December 16, 2009 10:38 AM

Dear Roger: (I apologize for the personal greeting but feel I know you) I may be late to the party and am in a distinct minority but I am a fan of Schneider's website.

First I make no bones about not being a film expert. I found Schneider's site in 2007 while arguing over a bad Indian poet on a poetry chatroom. Let me tell you if you think Schneier is tough on films he's way tougher on poets and poetry. He has a whole series where he rewites bad poems and makes them better. Aside from being funny they are brilliant. What sold me o him was an essay where I read a pretty good poem and wondered how Schneider would improve it. Then I read the "rewrite" and it was terrible. But Schneider pulled a fast one. He opened with the rewritten poem and then gave the original. The flaws in the originl were plain as day. This sold me on the fact that he was a great critic.

But, poetry and film aside, I believe this whole post and thread are not really abour Schneider. It is a continuation of the Armond White piece from a few month ago. Call it A TALE OF TWO CRITICS (V.2.0). Let me eplain, please. I was not familir with White until this piece was posted, but did some Googling and found your original imbroglio with him. It's also clear, Roger, that you have been lambasted online and in the press for tasking Mr. White.

I believe there is no serious way anyone could compare White and Schneider. They are polar opposites. Look at Schneider's and White's views on Spielberg. Also there is the fact that the worst your fans have been able to say is that Schneider called you dense. If that's a crime, then all of our parents, in-laws, spouses, and friends are criminals. In actuality Schneider's praise for your (Roger's) non-critical abilities is nothign short of effusive. Compare this to White on Ebert. I apologize but I am not proficient at linking. But there is an Armond White article online dated almost exactly a year before your takedown of him where he does not just call you dense, but basically ascribes the Armageddon in film criticism to you, repeatedly.

In plain speak, White and Schneider are American males who share a nationality and the same sex, and write on film. Other than that, there is no correlation.

But, here is my argument. I think you, Roger, were far harsher on White. After all, Schneider called you dense and your fans revile him, but you labeled White a troll. I am not a person reared on the Internet, but even I know the very term troll has personal connotations about someone's character. It was uncharacteristic of you, Roger, but, your comment was simply not nice. I thus believe that it was based upon your anger over White's earlier labeling of you as a culture killer (my Reader's Digest version of his column) that enraged you.

In the months since, you have taken heat online for those comments, and perhaps felt a mea culpa was not enough. Thus, enter Mr. Svensland and his introduction of Schneider (for whatever reasons), and you had a perfect fortuitous opportunity for penance over White.

Here it is. In Version 2.0 of A TALE OF TWO CRITICS, you have cast yourself in the role of Armond White and plucked the relatively unknown Schneider into the role of Ebert. As you condemned White, Schneider condemns you (sort of). Thus Roger Ebert now can point to his critics and fans of White that he can "take the heat" as well as dish it out.

After all, Schneider is far more of a true outsider than White, and you do him a favor by raising him in the film critical world's consciousness, you get to mea culpa without writing the words, and you get to direct this little morality play to your own ends.

If so, it is a BRILLIANT move! And I for one would love to see more of it from you and others. Folk like you in all fields should help worthy newcomers to replace you in the field. After all, Roger, you are so FAR above any other film critic in the country in terms of name recognition and influence that no matter what Schneider or White say, you can afford charitability. Plus, instead of comparing you with White or Schneider, the comparison becomes between Schneider and White.

Am I wrong?

Regardless, I enjoy your writings and appreciate that you have given this worthy writer and critic more notice. I've actually been reading some of his blog posts in reply to commenters and emails and the fact is Schneider makes you think and most people are too lazy to do so. To say he is without passion is not true. And to call him an Armond White clone is disrespectful.

Have a nice day.
Respectfully yours,

  He always ends emails and the like with a Yours. But, compare his post to many of the others. Although his motivations for Ebert’s post are a bit silly, it at least shows humor.

By FTracy3 on December 16, 2009 1:33 PM

Lots of great points, especially the importance of emotional response as a valid component of film criticism. Of course Vertigo is preposterous, but to most of us IT DOESN"T MATTER. That may actually be part of its greatness. It affects the viewer profoundly (this one anyway) despite its plot holes.

Although I don't want to read a review based solely upon emotion without it discussing other factors, let's not forget the reason most people even go to the movies in the first place. They generally do not go so that they can write an erudite paper on a film's symbolism and layered meanings. Schneider is interesting but he seems cold and somewhat of a snob.Ebert writes for a broader audience (still film lovers) and is someone I'd much rather go out with for a beer after a movie, even if we disagreed (and we often do) . With Schneider I feel if I said "I really liked that movie," he might respond, "No, you didn't."

  Actually Tracy, I would say, I don’t care if you liked it, was it good?’ Then you would form spit bubbles at your lips. Then this:

By Brad on December 16, 2009 6:02 PM

Hmmm, never read Schneider before but I like him. I don't think he accurately assesses Armond White though, whom he calls "barely coherent." There's really only four ways to pull meaning out of a piece of art. There's the meaning that the artist put there. There's the artist's cultural background which is kinda important. Then there's the detection of any subconscious material that finds it's way into the art. And then of course what does the art mean to you. I think Mr. White overly privileges the Freudian domain and tends to undervalue other domains of meaning. A little more balance would be nice.

  Meaning in art is not as important as its quality of presentation, and what the artist intends often has little to do with the end result.

  Because I had a fan write in, the bloviating Tom Dark replies:

By Tom Dark on December 16, 2009 7:12 PM

Now that I see someone defending Schneider's critical ability in poetry, had to go look. And at some poetry and other stuff.

Sorry I did. I should have known better. I'm now even sorry I agreed with someone's witty assessment that he's a literary "lawman." He could get arrested for impersonating a schoolmarm.

Likely, in his 6-volume-so-far(!) memoirs, if he can tell the truth, we'll find that his "gang" days were largely of daring each other to spray paint his initials over perfectly good murals and wearisome nuisances like that... and enough dope to put a Berlin wall between himself and reality to this day.

This is the kind of individual who reads his tawdry (tawdry's what I found), unimaginative efforts out loud in a coffee shop while people are trying to read and talk. He resents it that nobody likes it, but usually, they'll try to say something nice to get him to shut up.

I've been trying to think of something nice to say about this guy since what I've said so far is, basically, what I've wiped off my shoe.

But my reason for seeking something complimentary is biased: I noticed that Schneider's worked for a living, if now and then.

Well, I hope he continues to work for a living. It's good for ya. If he works hard enough, he could even wind up to be a manager... or maybe a co-manager, or a manager trainee. Just so long as he doesn't keep pestering his co-workers about how much better a manager trainee he'd make over the manager trainee that got picked.

  Ok, let’s look at Tom’s writing on his blog. He’s barely coherent in prose discussions of film, and he laughingly claims to understand poetry, and be able to critique it? Also, note it took many posts and a week before the fool actually read anything I wrote. And look at this fat old white man talking about gangs- since he was likely even persona non grata at the soda fountains, back in ye days. Some day soon, Tom’s kids, if he has any, will sign him into a nice room where he can get three squares a day, and have his yellowed, waxy toenails clipped twice a month. Ah, luxury!

By Chad Sexington on December 16, 2009 8:12 PM

People like Dan Schneider really annoy me. He's stuck-up and snooty, trying to impose a system on criticism as if it were a science and not just the jumble of opinion that it is.

I think we all find a critic we can roughly agree with (in my case it's Mr Ebert himself), but that is because we share some emotional quirks with them. It's impossible to detach emotions from film viewing, let alone film criticism -- to use an example from above, Casablanca is so great because it makes you feel.

Empathy is the greatest of human traits and all art forms exploit that to garner an emotional response, only failing to be art if it fails to do so. To say that you have to analyse a film detached from your emotions is both stupid and impossible.

What's worse is that Mr Schneider dismisses Hollywood like it is some festering pool of hacks, churning out films that no one with any taste would want to see. Therefore, does that mean that such brilliant films of recent years, e.g. Avatar, No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood, anything by Pixar, Letters From Iwo Jima etc., are all worthless just because of where they come from? If anyone said the same about French film they'd be vilified, but to say it about Hollywood is okay. Trust me, all countries churn out the same percentage of crap that Hollywood does, only there's less volume.

Mr Schneider may not be looking to court controversy by deliberately disagreeing with the consensus on a film, but he is succeeding in courting controversy because he is plainly a tool.

  And, how, exactly do I go about imposing my will on others? Have I some Torquemada-like set up in back? Then, after many more worthless posts, this idiot thinks The Thin Red Line is not good (or he simply did not like it):

By Guillermo Lande on December 21, 2009 8:45 PM

Hi, Roger.

I confess I had a hard time getting past the idea that someone even liked Thin Red Line let alone thought it should be the best film of that year. To think the fact someone thought your critical ability was poor because you didn't think Thin Red Line was the best film of the year is befuddling to consider. But I guess I need to overlook lapses in judgment some people have.

Everybody misses the mark sometimes no matter how good they are. It's because we all live different lives and come from different microcosms.

Where you became my favorite critic, Roger, is after I read your review of "Sonatine" by Takeshi Kitano. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19980417/REVIEWS/804170306/1023

This was an obscure hard-to-find Japanese movie in a time where almost nobody watched foreign films let alone favored them, and you "got" it. Every now and then you hate movies I think are genius (Ghost Dog Way of the Samurai and Southland Tales are probably just a couple you hated). But most of the time you really, really get it. I've owned Inland Empire by David Lynch on DVD for months and finally got around to seeing it a couple of weeks ago. The last time I ever cried for an emotional reason was approximately 30 years ago (in 7th grade). I've been very sad many times, but Inland Empire actually made tears come out of my eyes. After watching it I thought, "I bet Roger hated this movie." So I went to your web site and read it, and even though we came from slightly different interpretations of the movie, you were so spot on analytically and emotionally on it that you once again defended your title as the industry's most senstive critic (that title coined by James Lipton of Inside the Actor's Studio if I'm correct).

After having read those reviews by that other critic on this letter you received I can't say I was very impressed with his reviews. He never really showed he "got" any of the movies.

At least if you don't "get" the movie I understand from whence you come, and when you do get them you get them deeply. That other guy seemed to write like he thought movies are a competition. They're not. They're art.

Ebert: Kitano has made six films since the last one I saw released here. Why no US openings?

  Then, a second fan of mine, also another Wikipedia editor sick of the bashing of me there. After raging on my e-list I told her she should  comment on the blog. She did:

By Anne L. on December 23, 2009 10:40 AM

Just when I thought it could not get any more ridiculous in the blogosphere I come across this stuff. As if Perez Hilton and ex child tv stars didn't whine enough. Here is a former tv personality crying because not all the people in the world think he's so great. Is life so terrible since they canceled your show?
Another pathetic ex-celebrity crying because the limelight is gone. I came across this feed and read to see if someone finally put old Roger in his place. I have never liked your pretensions.
So I read a few of the comments from his fans (sycophants) and look forward to the man being humbled. I get halfway thru and scratch my head. This is someone ripping Roger? So I go back and count up all the pro and con mentions of Roger's supposed criticism abilities and guess what? 70 mentions: 36 positive and 34 negative. Then I see that two of the supposed rips into Roger; for Casablanca and Taste of Cherry, are actually complimentary. So, more pro than con comments by this Schneider guy and really 8 to 4 to 2 positive negative and ties.
Is this a joke? Or are the two emailers retards? Or is Schneider really your long lost nephew that you owe a favor? Is Roger Ebert really so desperate that he has to invent controversies where none exist? And can't his fans actually read praise for what it is? Let me tell you Roger I'd be much harder on you than this Schneider guy.
Hey, get a clue. If you relly want to see people ripping into you Roger, forget this Schneider and this A. White. Go to a Google or Yahoo film chatroom and you'll see how the masses really feel about you. It isn't pretty, old man.
Poor Wittle Woger. Here I thought Josef Mengele had the honors for lowest regard for human life, when it was really some Internet guy from New York who dared to not kiss your butt. Yeah, which is worse, mass human torture or not sucking up to you?
I wonder does the Sun Times pay for the bandwidth for this massive ego stroke Roger? If I was them I'd send you the bill COD!!!!
If you really want to read an article that deals with much of what this one only touches upon, without Roger's masive ego, there's this great piece on the film Julie and Julia by David Sirota. He's a real writer of depth:
Now, please resume the lovefest for Roger. Obviously there's nothing more important to do.

Ebert: I wonder if you read Sirota's piece carefully. It's not really about "Julie and Julia." It's about comments exactly like yours. Here's a quote from way down toward the end:

So here's the deal: The next time you get annoyed by a content-creators' "self-promotion," unless it's really clear that the creator is really just trying to be a narcissistic spectacle with zero substance, give that content creator a break.

  She really ripped into Ebert, but he really flubs the Sirota angle. Sirota’s piece is relevant to Cosmoetica, not Ebert. Ebert was famous before the Internet, and to such an extent that his online presence is wholly dependent upon that otherly fame. After all, even his website/blog is hosted by his employer, who pays all the costs of hosting- not a penny from Ebert’s pocket. This is not true of me, and I started with no online presence nor name. Ebert is getting almost 100 million hits to his site a year. This year, I’m on pace for about half that. But, considering all the advertising and fame Ebert has, my success online is far more impressive. Clearly, Ebert is NOT the content creator that Sirota is speaking of; I am. Sirota even ends his piece with these caveats:

* Not surprisingly, most people who become very famous are accused of "self-promotion" until they achieve fame - and then the attacks are typically replaced by sycophantic worship and pure ass-kissing.

** By the way, Julie Powell may be a talented writer - I don't mean to suggest she isn't. But she didn't achieve her notoriety - and therefore, her opportunity to be a professional writer - based as much on her talent as a writer as on her getting written up in the New York Times for cooking the recipes of Julia Child.

  In short, Anne did read the piece carefully, and Ebert did not. This piece, incidentally, became quite a topic of conversation on my e-list, as Sirota’s first caveat, especially, destroys much of the claims of Ebert’s own sycophants here, as well as those on the Empire site and others. Ask yourself, if Ebert were just starting out a film blog, with no connection to his newspaper nor television shows, do you really believe he’d have such a legion of sycophants? Do you really believe he’d get 100 million readers a year? Is his writing so far above all the other online types that it would stand out to that degree? My guess is that he’d have a few hundred or a few thousand readers and be working a day job, like I, and James Berardinelli, do.

  Showing he’s still a clueless jackass, Tom Dark also misreads the situation, and feigns to do what he’s spent many a post (in this thread and others) doing with relish:

By Tom Dark on December 23, 2009 2:56 PM

Mr. Ebert? It's time for your afternoon buttlicking, sir. I've brought the dog around. Yes, it is a Saint Bernard, just as you ordered. I'm sorry about that Rottweiler. This should help it feel much better.

As one of your dwindling number of delusive sycophants, I thought I'd show off how much I know about movies. I remember a line! It goes:

"Ju know? Ju sound like ju haven't been f_cked in a year."

I believe that was Al Pacino to Michele Pfeiffer in "Scarface." Anne L.'s posting helped me remember it, if by sheer random association.

  Here is the third and final post from an e-list participant of mine:

By Geoff on December 23, 2009 3:13 PM

I think Anne perhaps went a little over-the-top with the invective, but she made a good point when stating that Schneider praised you even in his negative comments. For example in his “Casablanca” review, he states: “By contrast, the other commentary, by film critic Roger Ebert, is his usual quality commentary. What makes it good is not that Ebert has such insights, for he repeats much of what Behlmer imparts, but he has a love for the film, and scene specific comments that illuminate things a casual viewer might miss. As I've stated before, Ebert has serious limitations as a serious critic of film, but he is eminently qualified as a film historian.” Obviously, he has respect for you, even if he occasionally disagrees with you.

As for the Sirota piece…didn’t “Taxi Driver” and “The King of Comedy” attempt to warn us against this celebrity culture?

  More wanton idiocy follows, including another claim that I wrote something I did not. God, are people ever stupid- how can they NOT know who they are reading? Witness:

By Jeremy N. on December 28, 2009 11:53 AM

Roger (as your many conversations with us have earned us the right to call you):

Personally, I have no problem with Schneider's calling Hollywood any names he likes, nor with his calling you out on your populist defenses of Star Wars. The whole purpose of reviews is to give the reader someone else's viewpoint, not to be the reader's cheerleader (or contrarian). Not one of us is so fragile that exposure to an opposing POV should damage or cause us to do anything but think carefully about our positions in the light of an opponent's points.

In many cases, I agree with Schneider about the films themselves, but only in a relative sense. He is often "right" in terms of his own interpretation (he is thorough enough) but not about the transcendent rightness of his position, nor about his argument's effect on your stature as a critic. Schneider is an interesting critic whose tastes, like mine, are less populist than yours, but he has a classic short man's complex:-- the malady of the envious and ignored. You might have won an award for writing, but by God, he can prove that he, not you, should win the next conspicuous award for film *criticism*.

All of which, again, doesn't make me devalue Schneider as a critic. What does detract from his value are his Boolean pronouncements that a film can only be interpreted his way. Stardust Memories is in effect both films described by you and Schneider. You are not "wrong" in the objective sense but in the subjective one, and his insights into the "subversion" of 8 1/2 are simply the artifacts of his enthusiasm for his own sense of associational clarity: Like you, he has made certain parallels and is keen on the insights they afford.

Again, his method is no more sound than yours; his approach differs in that he places a greater emphasis on stylistic transparency (which minimalist Raymond Carver once referred to as "windowglass style") and less emphasis on the effects of tone and vivid description (though he is as dependent on these as any other writer: see his circus metaphor from 8 1/2). He also makes the mistake of conflating clear metaphors with superior thought. Just because an elephant and giraffe metaphor seems transparently clear doesn't mean that its point is unassailable.

He makes that mistake quite a lot: *Because I can lay out my differences with Ebert with great clarity, and choose not to evoke emotional immediacy in doing so, my point is proved to be more valid and objective than his.*

Not so, Schneider: Your distinctions highlight your own subjective preferences: Independent auteurs over Hollywood lockstep, appeals to the emotions over the evocation of an emotional response, textbook specificity over stylistic flourishes, You're playing Raymond Roussel to Ebert's Cormac McCarthy and don't even realize it, calling yourself "better" because you can formulate quasi-formulas that satisfy you.

To Schneider: You've a better chance at besting Ebert if you lay out your points of disagreement and let them do the work, rather than making tedious declarations about your rival's lack of prowess, which suggest that the two of you are locked in some sort of mating battle for the public's attention, in which the loudest and most self-certain critic gets to fertilize the eggs of the other critic's fans.

No offense, but writers like Norman Mailer and Harlan Ellison tried the parricidal approach many decades ago. I once cornered an older, wearier Mailer at a party and asked him about that. He replied that he regretted it, and patted me on the shoulder as if to say, "Don't do as I have done."

All best,


By Jeremy N. on December 28, 2009 1:14 PM

After reading a few quotes from the following thread, as well as Schneider's rants on his own site, it seems obvious that my previous post, like Roger's initial response, was far too charitable:


To quote from Schneider's review of Astroboy:

"If you must take your children to ASTRO BOY (social pressures and all) be certain to explain away the overt references that mock our culture and praise the Marxist agenda. Heavy stuff for kids wanting to see a cartoon, but if you don't balance the scales now, there will come a day when I'll say 'I told you so'. And, on that day, I probably won't feel like it (apologies to Michael Caine)."

No danger of Schneider usurping Roger Ebert on any front: Style, logic, clarity, restraint, the avoidance of political tirades or even the observance of basic rules of punctuation and grammar. Pity we gave Schneider more credence than we would any other navel-obsessed blogger pimping his imaginary celebrity. More deserving critics differ with Ebert profoundly but manage to do so in ways that lead to insights rather than chest-beating.

It's also interesting that Schneider blames society's ills on both conservative modernists (Eliot) *and* the "Marxists" who he suggests work for enterprises like Disney and HBO.

And here I thought we were discussing the merits of the films themselves apart from any distracting social agenda, and that Schneider had claimed he possessed more objectivity than Ebert.

  He quotes a review I never wrote, from the online circle-jerkers. Fortunately, only 2 posts later this moron was chastened:

By Rhada Krishnatija on December 29, 2009 12:45 PM


@Jeremy N: dude, did you even read anything in that link you posted? it's not a review by schneider, but by another internet critic some asshats at an online web zine's forum were making fun of. i mean, if you're gonna rip a dude at least rip him for what he says. it took less than 15 seconds to google and find schneider never wrote about that movie. did you even read the thread?

@Roger: i did not start reading yr blog til a few months ago but i've noticed you're much sloppier on the blog than in reviews. i mean, did you even read that link you approved by jeremy n? this isn't the first time on this thread or in other threads that you've posted and linked to things that were seriously wrong. i'm just saying that you cd get a lawsuit someday for sloppy stuff like that. and like i sd this isn't the first time.

btw, i read schneider's comments on the films you reviewed and wonder if you ever wish you could watch better films and cut all the crap you sit thru? i mean m bay films suck and i just watched stardust memories and 8 and half and both were good. this is the weirdest thread yet. i still can't tell if you'r a fan of the dude's stuff or not.

peace out and happy new year.

Ebert: The main site is all copy read by pros at the newspaper. The blog is all me. I process a thousand comments a week, on top of my other work. No, I don't follow every link. I wish I had my own copy editor, but there are no funds. It's just me, usually late at night.

  Yet another admission from Ebert, and one which explains alot. After reading this, I started reading some of Ebert’s earlier and later blog posts (prior to it I was only concerned with directly Googling a review) and was taken aback by how long, sloppy, ill-edited, and just generally rambling they were. In short, he wrote like a generic blogger, which makes my earlier observation  of his not standing out from the crowd, if he had to start from scratch, with a blog or website, like me, all the more cogent. It makes me see that a good portion of Ebert’s reviewing style, and wordsmithing, is likely the product of good editing and pruning by his employer, and not just a natural talent with words. This does not affect the end product in the reviews, but goes a long way to explain why Ebert the blogger is simply not in a league, writing-wise, with Ebert the critic. Plus, the commenter is correct that it is Ebert, not me, that runs a legal risk by lending credence to Internet gossip and misinformation. And this ties back to Ebert’s inability to recognize he is not Blogger X, but a celebrity blogger.

  At about the New Year, with comments in the high 300s, the blog thread started to turn. More and more non-Ebert fans seemed to find the post, and express less in-line views, unlike Ebert’s sycophants. Instead, more well reasoned replies started trickling though, until, in the last few months, they’ve become the majority, and a handful of Cosmoetica fans seem to have been born; not unlike what has happened at many other fora and blogs.

  Here was a particularly good one:

By Thomas R. Rae on January 13, 2010 11:23 AM

I want to thank Roger Ebert for this column. I would have commented earlier, but since discovering it have been reading through many film reviews by Schneider, Ebert and others to formulate a reply.

First I think the talk of emotion and intellect is overblown. Both Schneider and Ebert have ample degrees of both. Ebert's intellect is on display in many of his reviews and blog posts, and anyone reading Schneider's reviews who can call them unemotional are just silly. They are charged with passion.

Second I am a film fan but absolutely detest auteur critics who I think have destroyed a love of film the way most pop critics have destroyed it. The former does by overintellectualizing simple aspects of movies while the latter does by totally making banal all things in films and never finding any fault with things unless they are bored: an emotional response.

If you do not believe this read the many film blogs out there or check out MRQE, Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes. The critics there are horrible. They do nothing but echo the things Ebert, Turan, Thomas, and big name critics, etc say.

This is why I like (and I mean like and intellectually get) Schneider and thank Ebert for turning me on to this heretofore unknown critic (he seems to be uncared for and unlinked to in the blog world of film critics).

This gets me to the conflict of emotion and intellect. It is inapplicable. One reads an Ebert or Schneider for two different reasons. If I am tired and want a Saturday at a silly action flick, I will turn to an Ebert over which one to see. But, if I want a deep film to see, or have seen a film that puzzles me, Schneider is a good source to turn to. He explains with passion, detail and also brevity. Yes, he writes long pieces, but covers much.

My three favorites, so far,of his are his long but in depth take on It's A Wonderful Life. I never liked that film, but reading Schneider's take means I will rewatch it. He has piqued my curiosity. On the other hand I love Casablanca, but never really liked Bogey in the film. Then I read Schneider's take on it and voila! Yes, Bogey is a lesser version of the Henreid character, and while I have a more favorable opinion of the film than he does, it's hard to argue with Schneider's analysis of why the film works but is not prticularly deep. The third film that got me was his take on Au hasard Balthazar. It had been decades since I saw it at a foreign only theatre, but it always stuck with me. But not the donkey but the girl. Then I read Schneider's take and yes he's right. The female character is clearly an abuse survivor. How could I not have seen it?

It's these sorts of insights where Schneider is at his best and likely the best film reviewer I've read. But I won't be checking him out if I want to see Avatar. And that's the point. Different ctitic are for different types of films. Rotten Tomatoes and Ebert are good for the general releases. Schneider for the forgotten and overlooked films. He never condescends, and always treats a reader as if he is intelligent. So does Ebert, which is something many Rotten Tomato types do not do. Even worse are the film school snobs with their pointless minutia. When Schneider talks of minutia it is relevant to understanding something, like the abuse in Bresson's film.

Another positive with Schneider is that he never lets his own biases cloud his judgment. He also in a number of reviews openly states his bias up front. How many critics EVER do that? I simply do not like when I hear a reviewers opinions on politics. Sorry Roger but you are sometimes guilty of that.

But my overall pont is that too many of Roger's fans seem to not get the vital point that Schneider and Ebert (as well as Armond White and Pauline Kael and all the others) can serve audiences within a wider spectrum. Yes, there may be some overlap, and I will gravitate more to Ebert for Avatar and more to Schneider for a Kurosawa film, but this labeling of emotional vs. intelelctual utterly misses the point.

And that's my point. Thanks to you Roger for letting your readers (avid and occasional) know of this great critic. I also liked the piece on the guy who is watching all the Criterion films. Good luck to him, but I think Schneider is a good guy to weed out the wheat from the chaff on those titles.

Keep up the good work Roger and I hope life treats you well. The piece on your inability to eat was touching as well.

  This reply is not good just because it agrees with me, but note the fact that he does not presume to know everything. He actually seems to enjoy the fact of being turned on to good cinema. In short, he has an open mind. Look at all the Ebert posters, and compare the very tenor of the approaches to this.

  Then another of my fans returns:

By Gumul Aziwalla on January 15, 2010 10:22 AM

This is a followup to the prior comment and Mr. Ebert.

Mr. Rae: I agree with your comments on Schneider's criticisms. I would propose that some critics, like Mr. Ebert and most mainstream critics, are best called pre-critics. We read them to decide what films to see in advance. Then there are critics best read, like Schneider or Renata Adler, who are post-critics, who are best in explaining things we do not get in films or points missed or why we thought ssomething good or bad while others disagreed. I think this is the greater divide than emotion and intellect. Besides, Schneider always gives away spoilers.

Mr. Ebert: About a month ago I wrote and thought you unfair in calling Armond White a troll. In the interim I have read more of you, Schneider and White and I think you may be correct re: White.

I have found many of his reviews shockingly bad. But not because I agree or disagree with them, but because he has a blatant disregard for facts. Literally, almost every review gets the name of a character or actor wrong, or it places a film in astate or country it is not set in. Or there is some technical term misapplied.

That his editors let these errors thru is shocking. Again, this is not a matter of opinion but truly getting facts totally wrong. Is that what was meant by calling him a troll? If so I agree. He is a very bad critic, and one who disdains his readers. Otherwise I only know the term to mean commenting negatively and spitefully on blogs.

Again, forgive my lack of savvy, but was this gross lack of care and laziness for correctness what you meant in regards to White as a troll?

Respectfully yours,

  The discussion then turns decidedly more pro-my viewpoints, for a while. I do not recall this particular teacher writing to me but he is one of dozens of folks in teaching who have emailed me about my literary reviews, and teaching my ideas in classrooms:

By D.E. Klein on February 4, 2010 10:36 AM

Roger, I am a teacher of thirty plus years, recently retired this past October. I want to thank you for illuminating the readers on this worthy writer whose main goal is to have people think independently. I have taught K-12, and in many schools, and young people want to learn, they just need teachers and sources of information like Cosmoetica as guides.

I first encountered his literary writings, and I and my students have had some correspondence with Schneider, and he has always been honest. This is not the virtue that matters most in terms of criticism of course.

In this ADD-addicted society, it's no surprise that many of your readers come to conclusions 180 degrees from the truth, but this is a failure of my profession and yours, the media, more than anything else.

I think in 30 years, you may be as well known for introducing Schneider and Cosmoetica to a wider stage than for almost any other thing in your career.

Some years ago, my district banned Wikipedia and other secondary online sources of information because of their penchant for invalid sourcing. Cosmoetica, however, is original, and a boon. Many of my students have been fans, and this is a heartening sign for the future.

As a fan it is frustrating to read so many of your viewers stating they have not read Schneider, but they feel _____. It's as if they do not even follow your advice. They read you, but do NOT really read you.

I used to argue on blogs like Daily Kos and others, but gave up because of the bile. But sycophancy is just as bad. You should realize that you are not just another blogger. You are the foremost known critic in this country, in any format.

If you started your own website, like Schneider did, as an unknown, I doubt you would be as revered, regardless of the quality of your writing and opinions.

People need to READ more--not just reviews, not just blogs, but books, the classics. This is not snobbery, byt Twitter and Facebook are culture killers in many ways. What few positives they bring are drowned by the negatives reflected in some of these threads.

Nonetheless I want to commend you for this deserved focus on the best of what is online and not always the worst, which so much of the media does.

P.S.: http://www.cosmoetica.com/DSI21.htm

Here is a terific interview on film from the man who wrote one of your favorite films, Dark City. I dare anyone to read this interview and claim Schneider or his website are not major forces for intellectual good in these times. Dobbs is simply brilliant.

Ebert: Yes, I Tweeted a link to that interview. I wonder if Lem Dobbs is related to Fred C. Dobbs. :)

  The point about Ebert’s incomprehension of how is fame and celebrity skews his blog comments is typical. While it’s nice to know Ebert retains his everyman opinion of himself, that simply is not the reality.

  Then the thread seems to pick up steam as posters who seem to have become fans start holding conversations among themselves about me, Ebert, and film in general. There are a few more Ebert sycophants, but they seem to have trolled on to other threads by the time this thread is in its third month. The most interesting comments tend to be by posters who were drunk when they commented:

By Ken K. on April 10, 2010 4:28 PM

Synechoche was a film review of yours that i did not agree with but see none on this guy's website.

What was the reason of putting reviews up unless you like the thing? i get tired of so many critics putting up negative reviews. people need to be in the industry and make a living.

piracy is wrong and i don't support it.

way to go Roger

  And this follow up:

By Monad Herrida on April 12, 2010 4:10 PM

I was skimming thru this article and its replies when I came upon Ken K's reply and I almost wet my pants. After a hard day's work I needed a laugh.

God bless you, sir.

  Some of the posters outright criticize Ebert, and with good points:

By Samuel T. Murdoch on April 14, 2010 3:18 PM

I have often found emotion useful in life. At weddings, making love, or teaching my children how to be better people.

I have never found emotion useful in evaluating things that require a skill. This includes driving, professional sports, and the arts.

Sorry, but I think David beats Goliath again.

  Then topics from other Ebert threads show up. Then there is one anti-Schneider comment that, at least, is honest:

By Fubarista on April 30, 2010 4:07 PM

I hate people like Schneider but not because of the reasons so many others do.

I hate him because he's usually right and he knows it. He's like one of those schoolkids who got all A's and was always smiling, letting him know you were a dumb ass. And you were.

  And a pro-Schneider one that hits the mark:

By Erin H. on May 26, 2010 4:29 PM

"a considerable critic"

Roger opens his piece with this phrase. I love it because it implies two things; being of a certain stature and being considerate of many facets of a thing.

I have always thought Roger was one and he is correct when he labels Schneider one. That men with such different backgrounds and tastes can nonetheless share such a quality is why art exists.

I love film more than any other art form because I have zero talent in any. But I appreciate those with the talent and those who can help decipher that talent.

This is why I read Roger's blog and have bookmarked Schneider's site.

  After many posts without comment, Ebert shows he is still reading newer comments:

By Bryan Brentsmith on June 3, 2010 4:37 PM

Rich, Dusty made some good recommendations. Glad to see another fan of La Dolce Vita exists. One of my all time all times.

Salome, first mention of Renoir, I believe, in however many comments this post has. I have not seen The River, only his earlier films. Can you expound upon its charms?

Ebert: You bet I can:


  Then this:

By E.J. Maximilian on June 13, 2010 5:46 PM

Was it Shakespeare or Marx that said kill the critics?

Whoever said it was on to something. I don't know who's worse, Schneider and all his negativity or Ebert and all his gratuitous need for reassurance over the negativity.

Ebert: It was Shakespeare, but what he said was, "Kill all the lawyers."

  Then, after more back and forth over films, a fan quotes from on eof my best reviews:

By Baby Huey Has Grown on June 16, 2010 3:23 PM

What an awesome site this guy has. Thanks for doing this post Roger. Young people need to know about great stuff online like this.

U was skipping around his site and loved some stuff. Then I read this:

He’s out there. Yes he is. And he’s far scarier than Hannibal Lecter, Freddy Krueger, Anton Chigurh, or any of the other cartoonish murderers served up by American cinema over the last three decades or so since slasher and serial killer films came into vogue. The reason is because he is far realer. There are more of him out there, in real life. He is not some freakish killer who hides in the corner of society, doing ghoulish things and masturbating over it. No. He is in the mainstream, and for every person, in real life, that is killed in the Hollywood style depicted in films that star the above named ghouls, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of human beings killed in the very way that he killed. They are murdered, as a way of doing business, as a seeming necessity for someone to retain their privilege. There is no indulgence in the passions and perversions that the gory monster sort of killers in cinema indulge in. No, they are strictly business-like. Efficient, emotionless. Professional. They are all exemplified in perhaps the most realistic embodiment of murderous evil put on to the silver screen. That character is Judah Rosenthal, as portrayed by Martin Landau, in Woody Allen’s masterful 1989 film, Crimes And Misdemeanors- a work that far supersedes the work of art it is almost always compared to, Fyodor Dostoevesky’s Crime And Punishment, and provides a glorious capstone to Allen’s greatest decade in film, one which opened with his phenomenal 1980 masterpiece, Stardust Memories...

This is the greatest review for a movie I have ever read. I watched Crimes and Misdemeanors [http://www.cosmoetica.com/B926-DES719.htm] a year or so ago and it always stuck with me. Now I know why.

Also love some of the conversations here. Much better than the Yahoo film chats. Cool.

  Another Ebert comment:

By Miguel A. on June 22, 2010 2:58 PM


Hey, this is Schneider's latest review. Any of you seen it? He compares Harris to Brando and De Niro. From the review I might put this on Netflix.

Ebert: You definitely should.

  And this:

By Bryan Brentsmith on June 23, 2010 6:49 AM

Good God. I've seen the Mick Travis films, and some early docs but somehow never saw This Sporting Life.

Most definitely will look it up (thanks Roger). I did think Harris was pretty good in Major Dundee, though. I watched that film and when I read Schneider's review I pretty much agreed it was underrated, but better than Wild Bunch. And I'm no fan of Peckinpah.

But if Schneider is raving and comparing it to Brando and De Niro it must be quite good.

By Bryan Brentsmith on June 23, 2010 6:49 AM


Fyi: Dundee review

Ebert: Yes. I am so happy he has switched to narrower page widths on his site pages.

  I don’t know what Ebert is referring to here. Perhaps his PC screen was adjusted, or he got a new one with a new pixel size. I’ve done nothing to make my pages narrower. But, there are still dolts that troll about:

By Jack on July 4, 2010 1:18 PM

Although I understand and admire Roger's professionalism and courtesy in refusing to specifically disparage another critic - a professionalism and courtesy which Mr. Schneider appears to lack - I also believe that he may have gone too easy on Schneider in this article. Schneider reminds me in some ways of the literary critic Harold Bloom (whom he has, ironically, derided on his website); a genuinely knowledgeable and intelligent individual whose arrogance, closed-mindedness, and rigid belief in the objectivity of art lead him to write poor criticism. I believe that this last quality, in particular, is an inherently harmful attitude for a critic to hold.

I came across Mr. Schneider through his strongly negative review of the beautiful film 'Synecdoche, New York.' It's an obstinate piece of writing which takes considerable time for such matters as scorning not only fellow critics but the individuals who appear in the DVD's bonus feautures, and which is full of claims such as "Like his fellow filmic perpetual preteen-minded brethren — Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino — Charlie Kaufman is constitutionally incapable of not making the same film over and again," an absurdity which floats in the midst of the review with no attempt at support or analysis. And would anybody like to explain to me exactly how SNY is derivative of either 'The Wizard of Oz' or 'Cube?'

I read Roger's reviews regularly, and while I often disagree with his opinions, I always perceive in his writing an awareness of the subjective nature of film and art in general, as well as a certain humility and open-mindedness.

  Note the emotionalislm Jack uses in his post. Fortunately, unlike earlier in the thread, there are others who came along to rebut:

By Chris Savanteur on July 5, 2010 12:27 PM


Odd that you would write such things about Synecdoche. I found Schneider thru this posting, and the first review I clicked on was Synecdosche, after my girlfriend and I rented it. Then I looked thru this post again, saw another commenter raving about Ebert's choosing it as film of the decade and was astonished that Roger apparently saw a totally different film than I (or Schneider) did.

I thought Schneider wrote the best analysis of the film I've read. It was funny, detailed, evocative, and correct. And let's face it, Ebert was in the minority on this one; most critics saw it for the vapid shallow me-fest it was. To compare Schneider with Bloom is ludicrous. Schneider is--as Ebert mentions--always starting reviews afresh (i.e.--an open mind). I find it odd that the very quality Ebert says he admires in Schneider is missed by almost all the comments here. Makes me wonder how many of you agree with Ebert because you think he's correct and how many are just sucking up.

Bloom I turned off of after he declared that no one would ever better Shakespeare. I think Twain, Dostoevsky, Ibsen, and a few dozen others would argue.

@Cassavetes Forever: Think whatever you will of Jon Voigt personally, but most actors would kill for his resume from the late 60s thru early 80s. As for Jolie? Let's see-- a bisexual cutter who admitted to being sexually intimate with a sibling, carried her first husband's blood in a necklace vial, and then broke up Pitt's marriage and is trying to out-Mia Farrow Mia Farrow with ethnic trophy children!

I think she could do with a little of Voigt's values--right wing or not. She's the sicko!

By Chris Savanteur on July 5, 2010 12:38 PM


The Cube and Oz references are rather plain. Like Cube, Synecdoche is about people under others control and aware of it, and struggling to break free, which Caden's actors do. And, like Oz, the film is clearly an allegory set in an unreal place where both Caden and Dorothy wish to go home again, to their pasts.

I'm curious: if such plain and easy references are missed what amount of support or analysis would be enough? And, let's see, QT makes mindless action films with hipser gutter talk,Burton makes childish films of no depth with a "dark" edge, and Kaufman makes films about mentally troubled people who live increasingly psychotic existences that are self-referential. Again why would anyone need further explanation of rather straightforward and obvious statements?

Ingmar Bergman made dour films about pseudo-intellectuals with good lives who thought they were bad lives. John Ford made moralistic Westerns with dumb ass heroes played by John Wayne.Federico Fellini made absurdist films with unlikable heroes. The only support such obvious claims need is "go watch the movie"!

  Then, as earlier, with the digression on oil production, the thread takes a bizarre turn in mentioning this online music critic, George Starostin. I have read quite a few of his reviews, and the commenter who first mentions him actually hits the nail on the head- he’s not a good critic, just a fan who thinks The Beatles started all things good in rock music; a typical sufferer of Founder’s Syndrome, in thinking that first always equals best, even if the first really weren’t first, as in the case of The Beatles. Oddly, although the first mention of Starostin is in a negative light, quite a few of his fans chimed in, obviously trying to get more notoriety for Starostin’s website. Here’s the start:

By Mark Jenkins on July 5, 2010 5:35 PM

A friend and I were arguing about Harold Bloom and I detest him. We were talking about Schneider and other online critics and neither of us really thought he was a match with Bloom. My friend is a big 1960s music fan and mentioned a critic named George Starostin who is much closer to Bloom.

His site: [http://starling.rinet.ru/music/index.htm]

Starostin is one of those THE BEATLES ARE GOD types and all other bands do not compare. That's arrogance and closed-mindedness. Schneider does believe in objectivity, unlike Starostin, but I'm curious as to how that is harmful. If one believes that everything is subjective then there can be NO basis for criticism because it is all the same. There HAS to be objectivity otherwise criticism is meaningless.

I think the commenter named Jack should read the music reviews of Starostin then get back to us about who really is the Harold Bloom of the Internet. It sure ain't Schneider.

  Great point: There HAS to be objectivity otherwise criticism is meaningless. Is there really any arguing with this? Another good point:

By Laz Burke on July 7, 2010 6:49 AM

It's interesting that someone was mentioning music critic George Starostin. I played in a garage band as a teenager and have followed rock music for over 40 years. I came upon him reading his name in another of Roger's threads.

I also edited a college film magazine many years ago so love film and have enjoyed perusing Schneider's website these many months.

I like that Roger's threads are a nexus for these sorts of connections but I don't see any real connection between the two S critics. Starostin is what would now be called a fanboy. His writing is not technical and he mostly relies on his gut. Ironically, given all the discussion here on emotion vs. intellect I'm surprised no one made the apt comparison. Starostin is the Roger Ebert of music criticism.

But Bloom is another kettle of fish. He is not a particularly good writer and he lacks even Starostin's type of passion for literature, Schneider's ability to take apart an element of film and examine it (the quote by Macy Gavin is typical), and Roger's humanity.

Bloom is simply Bloom and there is a reason that most art lovers view him as this austere out of touch monolith. Because that's who and what he is. Fortunately there is no one else like him. Certainly Schneider does not fit the bill, and having read now about 100-120 of his essays on film, books, and other topics there simply is no way to compare Schneider to Bloom.

To quote Chris Savanteur: "To compare Schneider with Bloom is ludicrous. Schneider is--as Ebert mentions--always starting reviews afresh (i.e.--an open mind). I find it odd that the very quality Ebert says he admires in Schneider is missed by almost all the comments here. Makes me wonder how many of you agree with Ebert because you think he's correct and how many are just sucking up."

I agree but he expressed it most succinctly. Scanning through many of the comments here, up and until Jack's on 7/4, my guess is that less than 10% of the Schneider bashers have even read all of the selections Roger made from Schneider's reviews otherwise they could not say the things they do with a straight face. And certainly I doubt any have read as many as I have or more.

  The rebuttals forced Jack to reply rather wanly:

By Jack on July 7, 2010 7:56 PM

I'll concede that my Bloom/Schneider comparison is superficial and basically pointless as both critics obviously have dimension beyond the grounds on which I compared them. That said, I feel that those grounds are themselves valid. Schneider's writing frequently indicates an arrogant disdain for other film critics, manifest in his claim "There has NEVER been a film critic, thus far, whose general ideas on the art are worth reading years later." For closed-mindedness, see, for example, his review of "Revolutionary Road," which hinges upon presenting a limited definition of "tragedy" and demonstrating the ways in which the film fails to fulfill this definition. Schneider's argument appears to be that the film's characters are not "great," but petty and insignificant; therefore the story cannot be a successful tragedy; therefore it cannot be a successful film. I'd love to read Schneider's take on "Death of a Salesman." It's a dismissive attitude which misses the point, and it's not the only such instance in Schneider's writing.

Schneider argues that the purpose of any film critic is "To objectively analyze and evaluate the film. Period. Anything else mucks up the works." This is a perfectly noble approach to criticism, but not the only one. I do not believe that one can arrive at some objective truth at the heart of any work of art by divorcing one's criticism from an emotional response. I DO believe that art has both a subjective and objective dimension, and that even when taking a wholly objective approach, a critic must admit this.

One last thing, in response to the poster Chris Savanteur: I maintain that the Oz and Cube comparisons are at least as superficial as my own comparison to Bloom. Like Fargo, There Will Be Blood is about individuals driven to evil in the thrall of greed, but that hardly makes it Fargo's derivative. In each case, the theme encompasses far more than the two films in question, and the comparison itself tells us nothing. The same can be said of the comparisons to Quentin Tarantino and Tim Burton; the defense of Schneider's claim could as easily be a defense of auteur theory.

Perhaps the moral of my post is that it's pointless to make too much of throwaway comparisons.

  As to Jack’s point about facile comparisons, another commenter takes that on:

By Bryan Brentsmith on July 8, 2010 6:37 AM


That quote about old time art critics I recall, although from which review I do not. I do believe though, that it was a general statement on theories, such as those propounded by French critics like Bazin or the Cahiers writers, no? He also mentions, I believe, there or elsewhere, Bosley Crowther, the NYT critic of the day. Have you read them? Crowther's opinions are that of a pre-Oscar Wilde moralist and the French are typical art theorists who will rant on about some trivial point in a film that they take to be some great symbol of the filmmaker's religious or political POV whereas it might just be some thing the actor did on a whim.

As for Rev Road, I've seen some of the reviews where Schneider will use a dictionary definition to show that some critic is being hyperbolic. I believe his point was that something like Hamlet is tragedy whereas Rev Road was more like a soap opera. Which of the two do you think it is more aligned with? My point is that Schneider seems to always cut through the BS and pretense to get to what most intelligent viewers are thinking. AS for me, I think that's exactly what a critic of anything should do. Don't you? How exactly is that dismissive? He attempts to always put a work in its proper context.

Plus, he reviews B films with the same fervor. As example I read his review of Curse of the Cat people, a film I saw years ago on tv, and barely recalled. Schneider praised it as a great depiction of the mental state of a young girl. I was like: HUH? But, after discussion with several friends who are more maniacal on film than I I watched it again and Schneider was right. It's not a B horror film but a beautiful and realistic tale. Val Lewton, the famed producer, is a treasure.

Jack, you write: "I do not believe that one can arrive at some objective truth at the heart of any work of art by divorcing one's criticism from an emotional response. I DO believe that art has both a subjective and objective dimension, and that even when taking a wholly objective approach, a critic must admit this." I agree. But I see no conflict with the statement of Schneider's you quote: "To objectively analyze and evaluate the film. Period. Anything else mucks up the works." You misread when you think that excludes emotion. Emotion itself is not objective. Ask anyone in love. But one can objectively look at it, if you are not the person in love, or you are, and it's years later and you are no longer in love. No?

A couple of the posters after you were complaining that so many people make this claim in this thread about Schneider and I am genuinely puzzled by it. Nowhere have I read Schneider dismiss emotion. Perhaps it was the two rather dimwitted emailers who emailed Ebert who started this idea, nut it's not true. The evidence of Schneider's own emotion in his writing, and his takes on it within are obvious. I just don't think it's a sustainable claim. In fact, it's a claim that is dismissive.

As for the comparisons to other films, again I believe that was a list about certain elements in the film that it bore some resemblance to. Did Schneider claim that Oz and Cube were forerunners of Synecdoche? This was not like Sergio Leone's theft of Yojimbo for A Fistful of Dollars?

As for the comparisons telling us something, I quote Chris, above: "Like Cube, Synecdoche is about people under others control and aware of it, and struggling to break free, which Caden's actors do. And, like Oz, the film is clearly an allegory set in an unreal place where both Caden and Dorothy wish to go home again, to their pasts." I agree and really don't think Schneider was aiming for deeper subtexts, merely referencing a number of films with strands that converged in the Kaufman film.

I'll still look in to Starostin, should be a good read, but I think only you were making throwaway comparisons. I've been reading through Cosmoetica the last some months since Roger generously exposed it but I think like many of the anti-Schneider folk here you'd benefit from dropping your own biases and not assigning them to others. I did and I've found a number of films I would have never watched otherwise, and thus far I've not seen one I regret seeing.

  I’ll admit it’s heartening to read that folks who actually read my reviews without bias tend to be able to ‘get’ ideas more readily. Check out this reply:

By Miguel Algodon on July 8, 2010 3:42 PM

It seems like Jack wants to damn Schneider no matter. If Schneider goes in to depth then he is closed-minded, and if Schneider states something obvious then he's dismissive.

Of course you are free to dislike Schneider's opinions, styles, reviews, but don't you think you are putting forth an unfair standard?

In the few months since I stumbled upon this post(literally thru Stumble Upon) I have perused both Schneider's and Ebert's sites and postings carefully.

I think both men serve an audience and a purpose. Ebert is the mass appeal guy. He is there to mollify and occasionally rebuke, but even his most ardent fans admit that he's pretty much a softy now. If you Google Roger Ebert 4 star reviews there was this great blog piece on how Roger's 4 star reviews have increased in number per year since the 1980s.

But I ask you, has film really gotten better in the last 25 years? Even Ebert says that film is not as deep and intelligent as it was in the 1970s or so. Then why has he given more 4 stars?

It has to be Roger's gone soft. His mind tells him that film as a whole is worse yet when confronted with individual films Roger can't bear to speak the truth, so to speak, that this film sucks. And this survey predates all of Roger's ills and goes back to when Siskel was alive.

As for Schneider, let's face it. He challenges you. That's his thing. He does not allow you to get complacent. He's not easy. He does not condescend. He treats you like an adult. This is why he seems to be loathed by many. Earlier in this thread there was a poster from Empire magazine's forum where a bunch of juvenile dolts spent weeks ripping on Schneider with all the grace of 10 year olds with their first porno mag.

But I think I'm better for reading Schneider. Do I always agree? No. I actually think Casablanca is a bit deeper than he does. I think 81/2 is a bit better than he does. But I concede that the vast majority of the points he raises are valid ones, and this makes me question myself and the films more. On Vertigo for example I never really thought much of it but my friends always told me it was a masterpiece. In this case Schneider directly led me to the film's flaws (Roger's dissent notwithstanding).

I don't mean to be presumptuous, but I think that Jack is actually being challenged and if he opens his own mind a bit more and stops expecting easy answers from half-hearted reviewers he will see Schneider's value as a critic of films, literature, and even social issues. I've been dead set against the Iraq War since Day 1, but Schneider supported it, then changed his mind.


Read this indictment of the pro-war position. A friend of mine who has been in anti-war protests told me that she even read from parts of it at several demonstrations.

Reading this mea culpa, and its brilliant slam of the pro-war side, I don't see how anyone with a brain can say Schneider is closed-minded.

I'm not saying you'll always agree with him, I don't. But if, as Roger believes, this is the Golden Age of film criticism because of online critics, then the cream of the crop is Schneider, by a long shot, imho.

By Miguel Algodon on July 8, 2010 3:48 PM

BTW- true story, my anti-war friend had emailed me portions of the anti-war essay a few years ago and I was impressed, but forgot about it until, a few weeks ago, when speaking of films at a social gathering I mentioned Ebert's post on Schneider and realized it was one and the same person. Synchronicity.

  A good point is that my anti-war essay has been quoted and read from in anti-war protests as far away as Australia. Then this nice testimonial. Unlike the earlier nice piece from a retired schoolteacher I did not directly recall, I am pretty sure I knew the individual in question, here, and which poetry group I met him at:

By Mitch Emerson on July 10, 2010 5:25 PM


I am a long time reader and first time commenter (or is it commentator?). I am also on a computer for the first time in several months after some health woes of my own.

I remember when this article first posted before Christmas and am surprised and delighted to see it still going all these months later. I know that there are many other posts with many more comments but I doubt as many have spurred as much interest as this. I guess the old comet versus ember analogy applies, or the little engine that could.

I digress though. You may not know this from just reading his movie reviews but Dan Schneider is also a fine poet and many years ago in Minneapolis I attended a poetry group that he was involved in and found him to be a very passionate man regarding the arts. But he was also the most open and honest critic of my own rather meager verse that I've ever had. I have taken many courses in college and writing classes at various workshops just for my own amusements. My days as the next Bobby Frost are long behind me :-), and I am far closer to the end than the beginning of where that road forked in the woods.

I think you have done a very good thing here by recognizing the man for all his dedication to helping others. And just as he helped me and other wannabe poets so have you helped him. I was a bit depressed that in the first few weeks so many people were so negative on this man but I guess when the culture one lives in rewards deceit it is hard to take real honesty for what it is. Because Dan did not think to highly of my poetry did not mean he was a bad person or arrogant or megalomaniacal. It meant he cared that I understand art and appreciate it, and in my case was also right. And I'm glad that some more supportive and favorable voices have added a little balance in latter months.

I think people have a hard time acknowledging that others can be right about things concerning themselves or that they hold dear because they feel it's a personal attack. In truth it's the best way to use a mirror. Even if the criticism is wrong it's good to force one to take a hard look at oneself.

I am an amateur film buff and have perused Dan's reviews for quite a while and find them fine. As I have done your fine reviews for far longer. Sometimes I think you're right, sometimes Dan. And even though you may superficially, in terms of approaches to film, seem different, I find that both you gentleman want the same thing:

a) for viewers to be informed about their art
b) for viewers to be moved in mind and spirit by film
c) for viewers to make up their own minds and declare both you and Dan wrong, if need be

Anyway that is my take on things. And I am a believer that good does good. Just as all the wannabe poets that Dan helped over the years led to the karma that had you discover his website, so has the help you have granted lent you a karma. Despite all your recent woes in health you still have your mind, your fingers and your decency. I think it may be difficult to see at times, but karma such as you bestowed on him does come back. Enjoy it.

Godspeed Roger.

  All in all, it looks like this thread is going strong, as even today, the day I post this essay online, there was another comment on the Starostin meme:

By Hally Visconti on July 15, 2010 7:34 AM

I notice all the George Starostin mentions and while one may enjoy his writings the fact is that he does not write on film soundtracks, nor does he review film musicals: Hair, West Side Story, The Sound Of Music, Rent, Evita, Moulin Rouge, Oklahoma, etc.

He writes on classic rock albums and acts: Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, The Who, The Beach Boys, etc.

So I don't understand why his fans are getting so defensive about pointing out the incongruity of his being mentioned in this thread?

Ebert is a film critic. So is Schneider. Starostin is a critic, but of ROCK MUSIC! If one might mention some stylistic similarities between Starostin and Ebert or Starostin and Schneider then I could see the constant pinging. But since it's mainly of the "I'm a fan of the man" sort I can only feel that there is a leeching effect here. Someone mentioned Technorati, and maybe extra mentions drive traffic? I don't know, but it is curious.

Again, no offense to Starostin who likely has nothing to do with this, and clearly has an impressive resume in the sciences and music criticism. But he has nil in this area.

  I may likely post some followup addenda to it, but a simple look at the chronology shows the slow creep of intelligence into the readers of the post, as more and more of them understand my points and writing, to the point that they can critically apply those points in new arguments, and formulate derivative opinions from what they’ve learnt. In short: Mission Accomplished.


The Blog  


  At this point it might be time to comment on the rest of Ebert’s blog and website. I mentioned how the fact that Ebert has editors only for his reviews, and not blog, was telling, and that’s because many of his blog posts are in serious editorial need, and not just the usual proofreading errors, but in getting him to maintain a focus and not get lost in minutia that is important to him, but not a reader. Like most writers online, he seems incapable of providing good editing for his own posts, which suffer from logorrhea. Additionally, Ebert seems to be writing some increasingly outrageous posts, which exemplify the earlier tendency I noted, that he does not have a really good nor objective sense of himself as a celebrity and online presence.

  In this post, as example, he’s trying to monetize his site, more along the lines that porno sites do. This led to his creation of a subscription Ebert Club. Yet, why would a site as commercial as The Chicago Sun-Times NOT be able to monetize Ebert’s names for ads? Yes, for bandwidth costs, which is why Cosmoetica is virtually all text, but Ebert seems clueless to this, and makes the poor decision to wall off a good portion of his content from readers. Unfortunately, there are only a small number of his fans that seem cognizant of this poor decision. Most of his syophants are too willing to lend credence to this bad idea. Perhaps the best response came from one of my ‘supporters’ on the thread on me. Incidentally, while I’ve not been contacted by this individual, he must be a fan, as he supported my page’s inclusion in the latest attempt by Wikipedia to delete my page. 

  He wrote:

By Bryan Brentsmith on March 4, 2010 7:06 AM

I feel it might be an error for you to go this route. I am not a big time commenter on things bloggish because little interests me.

Your reviews do. As some have mentioned, I feel they are a boon to those seeking knowledge.

Is this weblog run by you or the paper? If the paper, I think they can generate enough ad revenue via your name power alone. Not to feed your ego but as you mention you are the most widely read critic around: of film, theater, books, music.

I am not saying we have a right to your stuff for free, but this seems as misguided as the music industry when it did not see music sharing as advertisement, not a rival.

As example I just commented on the post you did about another critic recently: Dan Schneider. Aside from thinking it was a tremendous thing to do in terms of exposing his excellent writings to your audience, it showed a generosity of spirit. You have written of the fortuities of others in helping your career, and articles like the one on Schneider, or small films needing a boost, or the fellow watching all the obscure DVDs of foreign films, help regular folks like us connect to others like us, as well as you. Behind a firewall, the impact of the articles on Schneider or indy films would be far lessened.

Surely, after five decades as a famed critic, any monetization of your product cannot be VITAL to your bank account. You must have owned a good portion of your shows, right?

Anyway I just think this is an idea that can and likely will backfire (see the Newsday mention). The last thing you want to do is wall yourself away from newer fans in your dotage. Writers of substance need to broaden readership, not the reverse.

Just my thoughts. But, I do want to ask a question raised by the Schneider piece. There was some debate over your merits as a film critic, a film historian, and a film expert.

Obviously your bread and butter has been as a critic but decades from now, do you see your place in film history as more relying on your expertise and film historian labels, or not? I tend to think that mere reviews are nice, but not discursive enough to last long beyond a film's lifespan in the media glare.

I think your DVD commentaries will be listened to and relished for years to come.

Any thoughts on which of the three things will last longest? And which would you choose to be known as most, if you had your way?


By Bryan Brentsmith on March 4, 2010 7:08 AM


I agree with the reader who said that the Internet cheapens the value of content.

Also, would you even be moved to recommend other websites and critics like Schneider or other film blogs if by doing so, under this model, meant they were essentially "business" rivals?

Just a thought.

  But an even greater example of Ebert’s being out of touch with the times comes with this outrageous post, titled Variety: This Thumb’s For You, in which Ebert chides the magazine for finally wising up and canning the overrated and piss-poor critic Todd McCarthy. What makes the claim so alarming is that the very next month, Ebert totally contradicted himself with this post, titled The Golden Age Of Music Critics, wherein he claimed that film criticism is flourishing online. This is so manifestly false that it does not even deserve a rebuttal; one need just look up the folks he champions to see that their writing and analytical skills are not only poor, but generically mirror each others’. But, if that claim is true, then the firing of McCarthy is wholly justified. Why should Variety overpay for a hack when they can rely on Internet hacks for free? Granted, it’s these sorts of proclamations, by Ebert, which a) document his need for good editors on his blog and b) utterly cheapen his championing of films and writers (such as myself) of real quality (although, I guess, any praise is better than none), for it brings to the fore the fact that, in all likelihood, such championing is merely the toss of a dart, not any substantive analysis of the qualities of the arts and their critics. There were several bad posts on the idea that video games could not be art- a clearly wrong claim, for the fact that something is a game is as irrelevant to its art, or lack, as the frame of a painting is to the art it frames. Yet, it’s interesting that those threads garnered several times as many comments as my thread did, and, there, most of the commenters felt no reason not to rip into Ebert. There were also some interesting comments, on several threads, about Ebert’s increased doling out of 4 star reviews, in recent years, even as he admits that films have gotten worse- a clear case of his emotion conflicting with his intellect (it’s harder for him to damn in the specific than the general), which knows better, thus proving my VERY point about Ebert’s greatest weakness as a critic.

  This comment is interesting because it compares me to the same George Starostin mentioned in the thread on me, and someone that I have long considered one of the worst arts critics online. He is, as mentioned, one of those people who suffer from the Founder’s Syndrome delusion- i.e.- that the first (or perceived of as first) practitioners in any field are given credit far in excess of their real accomplishments. With critics like Harold Bloom, the case is made with William Shakespeare. With George Starostin, pop music begins and ends with The Beatles, and no other group compares, even though his ‘reasons’ are wholly subjective and based in emotions. But getting back to Ebert’s claim of this being a Golden Age of movie criticism due to online stuff, I became aware of this article when one of my readers pointed out that the same commenter from above, Bryan Brentsmith, had apparently mentioned the Ebert post in commenting on this article, whose title, The Death Of Film Criticism, is 180 degrees in opposition to Ebert’s claim of a Golden Age; yet both are clearly wrong. One need only scan Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic, or MRQE to see how truly horrid most film critics, on- or offline really are. But, there are a few of quality, aside from me and the hit and miss James Berardinelli.




  It’s clear, from both Ebert’s blog post and many others where he champions little known films and writers of quality, that he is a man of principle. But, principles mean nothing when it comes to critical ability. This cross-wiring of domains is what is responsible for all the deliterate and irresponsible attacks and misconstruals of my writings, which are very clear. But, let’s not deify a man for doing things that all responsible people with power should do: use that power for a greater good. I’ve done it over and again at Cosmoetica, with far less startup power than a multimillionaire celebrity like Ebert  has. The real question is why is Ebert’s recognition of me, and my recognition of young and ignored writers of quality, such a rare thing? Do not be surprised at such charities, they SHOULD happen. Be surprised at all the bile and deception and ad hominem attacks that fly about online, as plainly exhibited in Ebert’s own post about me, via his sycophants. But, Ebert should be correctly chided when he misuses that power, as well, and here I am speaking of the above mentioned posts wherein he claims that this is a Golden Age of film criticism, especially online. Such absurd and broad-brushed claims are the sorts that make his own individual film criticisms suffer, as well as they cheapen posts like the one on me, where Ebert actually gets it right. Of course, what this sort of thing highlights is how correct my initial claims were, that, like many critics, online and off-, Ebert is basically a dart thrower. He’s a dart thrower that (with the assistance of a good editing team) can crystallize his prose like few other film critics ever have, but whose critical judgments are an absolute hodgepodge with no rhyme nor reason behind them, as evidence by his own explications of them.

  And, despite his blog’s claim that he gets comments that are the envy of the Internet, this is manifestly false. The comments seen above are typical of the smallmindedness of the typical websurfer- from the sycophancy and stupidity of his regular posters to even the obtuseness of some of the people who comment in favor of me and my writings, but who clearly exhibit that they, too, merely ‘like’ me or my writings, yet they fundamentally do not ‘get it.’ As example, there is the tedious commenter, Randy Masters, another of Ebert’s regular sycophants, who on 12/10/10 fails to see the humor in my piece:

Schneider: I not only concur, but almost forgive him for recommending Saving Private Ryan. I said almost, now.

This would be the kind of comment that would put critics in the category of film snobs. Useless ones at that. If a critic can not recommend Saving Private Ryan as an interesting movie to watch, he is no good to me as a barometer.

  No, Randy, ‘tis you who are useless., for you cannot even discern real humor.

  Similarly, the whole emotion-intellect and subjective-objective axes were mixed up by the dolts who are regular readers of Ebert. Re: emotions, I would challenge anyone to read all of my writings and not see the import of emotions in my art. Second, my whole claim is that an emotional response has nothing to do with the quality of a work of art. There are clearly great works of art that will leave some people cold, without feeling. There are also bad works of art that tug on the proverbial heartstrings. But these are all things that are individuated responses, thereby are not reproducible in others. If you, the reader, get weepy watching Terms Of Endearment, and someone else thinks it’s laughably manipulative, how can one reconcile two such opposing emotional responses? Actually, it’s not difficult, and that is by evaluating objective criteria such as the use of camera movement, or the framing of shots, or the development of characters in their context. In this way, one might be able to objectively say that that particular film is a well made piece of schlock. It’s not high art, but for what little it attempts, it succeeds at.

  And, of course, no one, even me, has ever claimed that one can be objective 100% of the time. There are quite a few reviews where I put a disclaimer about some personal connection I have with a film, but how few critics do such? Perfection is not attainable, but one, as a critic especially, must strive to be objective. A critic owes it to his readers to serve their needs, not his own. If I can claim 99 out of 100 reviews of mine are objective then that’s good, but that does not negate the one time human frailty damns such perfection, so I can say I am objective, with the unneeded and condescending statement that there will be rare occasions I am not. It’s as if one were to claim that Halle Berry were not a gorgeous woman because every few days, after a bad night’s sleep, she wakes up and looks only so-so. It’s silly. Let me state this, which I’ve elucidated before, in other essays:

  The critic that claims there are no objective criteria on which to base an opinion of something is really stating their own inability in doing so; even as they try to make others seem like it is I who am saying there’s no such thing as subjectivity. I’ve never said that. All I’ve done is counter the Postmodern claim that there is no objectivity. There certainly is. And it only takes one objective fact to objectify the whole world in parallax to it. Those who claim that all is subjective are a curious lot for if they really believed that then they would not argue the point, since its arguing belies their belief in its objective nature. Objectivity need not be total, but subjectivity does, when broadbrushed in such a manner. Imagine a Pacific Ocean of pure water. This is subjectivity. Drop a single drop of blood into it, and it’s no longer pure. Objectivity exists in such a manner, although the ration is much closer to being all objective, with subjective patches, here and there- i.e.- one can argue the subjective differences between like quantities but not unalike quantities. The whole belief that all is subjective is mere dogma, an ideology with no basis in the real world.

  In other words, one can enjoy or not enjoy a film, on one level, and emotionlessly evaluate it on another simultaneously- this is called multi-tasking; but the point is that enjoyment is not fundamentally connected to quality. This is why one should never argue one’s subjective likes, only objective quality. Of course, its things like subjectivity and emotionalism (especially hyper-emotionalism) that directly lead to the formation of cults of personality, such as that devoted to Roger Ebert. But, one need not be a celebrity to get a cult of personality. Many minor ‘stars’ of the Internet have them. And, again, I’m not one of them, much to my wife’s occasional dismay, as she would love to have hordes of people at our beck and call. I wouldn’t, because the very lack of such a cult around me shows that my writing actually gets through to people without biases, unlike Ebert’s sycophants, who cannot even see the quality in my reviews that he does. Folks like a Tom Dark or a Marie Haws would cheer on Ebert’s farts as genius, and that’s because they are totally superficial readers and thinkers. And I say this from having perused the comments of those two, and others, on many of Ebert’s own threads, before and after the one on me. Yet, there are, as I mentioned at this essay’s start, cults of personality where the cultists are few in number, yet circle about a blogger with insane admiration (see my pieces on Dean Esmay and his fans, as example), or even where the cult and cultists are a singular person obsessed with themselves. Yes, as Ripley would say, believe it or not! But, that’s a subject that will have to wait for Part 2 of this series within an essay series. For now, ciao!


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