Last week famed film critic, Roger Ebert, passed away, having long suffered from cancer. Vitriol against the dead is unseemly, and Shout Bits does not want to lower itself to the leftists who inevitably will denigrate the late PM Margaret Thatcher, one of the true greats of the 20th Century. Still, Ebert’s story cannot be told without understanding his rabid partisan leftism. Especially after he was robbed of the ability to speak, Ebert was famous for his anti-Republican and anti-capitalist screeds. As with Walter Cronkite, Ebert’s role has been supplanted by a more egalitarian system that far better serves the public.
Ebert and his partner Gene Siskel were famous for their PBS program where they gave thumbs ‘up’ or ‘down’ to movies. This was clever for many reasons – a movie goer can only choose to go or not to go to a movie, so a binary review made sense. Also, Siskel and Ebert often disagreed with their thumbs and would hash out their differences. Movie goers thereby got a sense of why the critics felt as they did. A single review was unreliable and often reflected the critic’s snobbery and bias. Two reviews offered more perspective, which made Siskel and Ebert the tops of their profession.
Siskel was the intellectual with a taste for drama while Ebert was lustier with a taste for action. However both of them, along with most Old Media were snobs who thought patriotism or faith was for hacks. Ebert’s review of Atlas Shrugged I, for example, spends the first paragraph insulting Ayn Rand and her followers. Only after that irrelevant snark did he dissect the movie. Ebert was a leftist who could never give Shrugged a review on its own terms, and he trashed it. Yes, the production values were not Scorseseian, and the plot was dull, but any Rand fan would expect that. Ebert and the OM in general were incapable of speaking to the people who were considering actually seeing the movie. Telling leftists, elitists, and popcorn flick aficionados not to see Shrugged was hardly a vital public service.
Enter the internet and Rotten Tomatoes. Just as the internet turned ordinary Joes into pundits (guilty as charged), anybody with an opinion became a movie critic. Rotten Tomatoes reports that 11% of OM critics liked Shrugged while 72% of amateur critics recommended it. The difference is that the OM is trained to reject ideas outside of Columbia University’s leftist circles. Rotten Tomatoes lets people consider opinions from critics like themselves, who are usually critics not friendly with Weather Underground terrorists.
While citizen journalists largely supplement OM reporting by exposing bias and lies, citizen film critics have completely eclipsed the OM’s influence. Very few trustworthy OM reviewers remain, and they certainly are outnumbered by the tagline whores who praise Hollywood’s most terrible hacks. Instead, movie goers get quicker, better, and more targeted reviews from their peers.
So, RIP Mr. Ebert; you had a tough life with suffering nobody would take lightly. You were misguided with regard to your Chicago-style extreme leftism, but you were hardly the most powerful man to confuse Marx with liberty. You were clever and likeable in your reviews, but the march of progress has rendered your profession irrelevant.