April 12, 2007

(++++) FILM BILE

Your Movie Sucks. By Roger Ebert. Andrews McMeel. $16.95.

      Roger Ebert writes so well that it is as much fun to read his praise of a film he likes as it is to read him tear apart one he despises. Okay, almost as much fun. When Ebert really lets loose at a piece of cinematic garbage, there’s an extra fillip of joy in reading how this skilled wordsmith comes up with just the right descriptions of all the horrible things perpetrated on the moviegoing public.

      Your Movie Sucks is the second collection of Ebert’s really nasty reviews, and it’s just as good as the first, which was appropriately called I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie (tell us how you really feel, Roger!). There is actually something sad about all the money wasted on really bad films – and often all the talent wasted, too, although some of the films discussed here don’t include much talent either in front of the camera or behind it. But the sadness stays well below the surface through much of this book, because there is also a certain joy in reading the many ways Ebert can eviscerate a film that he really, really, really hates.

      For instance, Ebert casts his review of A Cinderella Story in the form of a letter to a 14-year-old boy who was quoted in a Wichita newspaper as no longer paying attention to critics: “This is a lame, stupid movie, but Warner Bros. is spending a fortune, Byron, to convince you to see it and recommend it to your mom and [sister] Jasmine. [But] this review is a splendid review because it lets you know you’d hate A Cinderella Story, and I am pretty much 100 percent sure that you would.”

      Of course, Ebert doesn’t need stylistic cleverness when he simply wants to take a bad movie apart: “Pearl Harbor is a two-hour movie squeezed into three hours. …The film has been directed without grace, vision, or originality, and although you may walk out quoting lines of dialogue, it will not be because you admire them.”

      Your Movie Sucks is arranged alphabetically, so you can quickly see whether one of your own personal favorite stinkers is discussed here. Or you can have fun (more fun than actually seeing these movies, as Ebert had to) by opening the book at random. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood: “There is not a character in the movie with a shred of plausibility, not an event that is believable, not a confrontation that is not staged, not a moment that is not false.” The One: “The movie offers brainless high-tech action without interesting dialogue, characters, motivation, or texture. In other words, it’s sure to be popular.” In Blade: Trinity, “Dracula is some kinduva guy. Played by Dominic Purcell, he isn’t your usual vampire in evening dress with overdeveloped canines, but a creature whose DNA seems to have been infected with the virus of Hollywood monster effects. …He doesn’t suck blood; he vacuums it.” Swept Away “is a deserted island movie during which I desperately wished the characters had chosen one movie to take along if they were stranded on a deserted island, and were showing it to us instead of this one.” The Village: “Critics were enjoined after the screening to avoid revealing the plot secrets. That is not because we would spoil the movie for you. It’s because if you knew them you wouldn’t want to go. …To call [the secret that is eventually revealed] an anticlimax would be an insult not only to climaxes but to prefixes.” And on and on Ebert goes, eliciting laughs and gasps and the occasional “ooh” or “aah” when he makes a particularly telling point. Your Movie Sucks is testimony to the tremendous amount of misuse of capital – financial and human – in the film industry, and to the tremendous service provided by Ebert and other critics in wading through all this muck to point everyday moviegoers in the direction of the occasional gems that they might otherwise overlook. As Ebert writes about Snow Day, in a comment that has distressingly wide applicability, “What a thoughtless place is Hollywood, and what talent it must feel free to waste.”

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