I flip out when I see Roger Ebert has released a new book. I turn into a superfan, similar to the teeny boppers who line up at theaters the night before the premier of the new Harry Potter or Twilight film. A few months ago, his third volume of Great Movies was released in hardback, and it took me close to a month of penny-pinching to raise the $30 (actually I got a 50% off coupon from B&N). I devoured the 400-page book in an evening and am currently making my second round through the reviews. So this week, I thought I’d take a break from films and write about writing about films.
Ebert’s mass appeal is mainly due to his love of all films. His two earliest volumes include a wide variety of films – from popular classics like Casablanca, Star Wars, and The Wizard of Oz, to more obscure films of Kurosawa and Bergman. However, his latest volume includes more of the obscure and less of the classic – one of the best exceptions is Kubrick’s Paths of Glory, which, after reading his review, might just enter my personal top ten favorite films of all time.
The most curious entry is Chuck Jones: Three Cartoons, which includes “Duck Amuck,” “What’s Opera, Doc?” and “One Froggy Evening.” I’ve loved Warner Brothers cartoons since I was a kid, so it was a trip reading the same qualities placed on Jones’s gift for plot, cinematography, and character development as cinematic directors. So I’m excited to watch them again with the same eye for artistry and craft as I would watch an Orson Welles film.
Also included is the review where he addresses a common question – “Do you ever change your mind?” – to which he admits his occasional exceptions include 1974’s Oscar winner for Best Picture The Godfather: Part II, which he didn’t like in his initial review and didn’t even make his top ten list that year, and Groundhog Day, which I can’t imagine anyone liking if they only saw it once.
While this third volume might be somewhat of a letdown compared to the two earlier volumes, it’s still a delight. Like the Twilight fans who are so in love with the characters that they’re willing to forgive heinous discrepancies from their cherished book, I can read Ebert’s Great Movies III while wishing it included more films I’ve seen or would want to see after reading the review. I prefer the first and second volume, but since he’s willing to give The Godfather: Part II another chance, then I can give the third volume another chance.
Plus, if you’re shopping for a gift for that special film geek on your list, I recommend Great Movies I and II, or consider Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert, Forty Years of Reviews, Essays, and Interviews. At 400 pages, it’s guarantee to keep anyone busy for at least an evening.