Seven months ago, there was a [[Request]]( for Roger Ebert to do an IAmA. I contacted him myself on Wed, Nov 4, 2009, using the comments box on one of his blog posts. I was delighted to get a reply!

After he accepted to take questions (I offered the number 10), I made an IAmA post here. 1,143+ comments!!! 1440 points!!! Thank you for the overwhelming response!

After a full day, I took the top 30 or so comments and made a new post so that they could be scored without bias of when they were posted. I then took the top 15 comments and sent them to Roger, saying that he could pick any 10 of them. He agreed to respond to them.

I sent a few reminders over the months, but we all know he's been through troubles with his health and such. I got lots of complaint threads and messages in the meantime, but everything was out of my control, really.

Anyway, he sent me an email an hour ago with his answers! Without further ado...


what's the one movie that has stumped you (as far as making a decision on whether you enjoyed it or didn't) the very most in your career?

Scorsese's "The King of Comedy." I keep waiting to see it again. It keeps going wrong for me. The characters of Rupert Pupkin and Masha are unforgettable. Jerry Lewis is pitch-perfect. NAME is dreamy. I am nagged by a suspicion I'm wrong. I've approved of many leer movies. But in my sort of generic approach (Does this movie succeed in what it sets out to do, or what we expect it to do?) I dunno. I will have to see it for a fourth or fifth time.


How has age affected how you view movies over the years? By that I mean, do you think you've gotten better at discerning what movies are worth seeing by having experience with the medium over a long period of time, or do you think a more innocent viewpoint, not marred by technical knowledge such as influence or technique, leads to a more "pure" watching experience - one that allows a person to more easily experience the core emotional elements that make a movie enjoyable or meaningful without being distracted by technicalities?

The more movies you see and write about, the more you know about them. Consider baseball. The "innocent" crowd member sees a bunch of guys running after a little ball while earring funny costumes. The Cubs fan sees inevitable tragedy unfolding.


How has your bout with cancer affected your viewpoints on things like controversial movies, politics and life in general? It seems that after your illness/voice problems began you've been publishing more politically motivated (and wonderful, I might add) columns and articles.

It was a wake-up call about my mortality. About a man about to be hanged, Dr. Johnson said something like this: "The knowledge hat one is to die in the morning sharpens the mind greatly." I don't expect to die in the morning, but the principle holds.


What is your "Guilty Pleasure" movie?

Russ Meyer's "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" John Waters called it "The best movie that ever has been made, and ever will be made." That tells you something right there.


Are there are any of your reviews that are particularly proud of - ones that brought recognition to an unknown film, or which you feel captured something nobody else quite understood, or which were just unusually fun to write?

I am proud that I was the first person to ever write a review of a Martin Scorsese film, and I was absolutely right about him. I wrote about "2001" the day before its premiere, and my praise was joined by many early criticisms. Recently, I've been excited to champion the work of Ramin Bahrani ("Man Push Cart," "Goodbye, Solo"). My choice for best film of the decade was "Synecdoche, New York," and on my blog I received dozens of messages in fervent agreement. Charlie Kaufman's film is building a reputation as challenging but profound.


You are credited as the first major critic to realize what an incredible force in cinema Martin Scorsese was destined to become. What currently developing directors will be the most recognized in 20 years?

Ramin Bahrani.


Ever watched a movie that was too disturbing / shocking to complete / review (if so what was it)?

I walked out of "Caligula," but more because of disgust and shock. Otherwise, no.


What is your process of reviewing? Specifically, take notes during the film or do any outside research? If the film was based off of a book, do you read it?

I take written notes sometimes. I do not go out of my way to read the book, although often I may have. Although my reviews often discuss the source material, it's not a question of whether the movie is "faithful" to the book. The question is, how good a film is it? New things interested me less than whether "Twilight Two" deviated from the novel.


Are there any films you particularly disliked when you first reviewed them, but years later saw the film again and greatly enjoyed? Or vice versa?

Not particularly, although I am open to shifts in opinion. What we thought then need not be what we think no. We grow, we learn, we change.


What is your most favorite personal memory of Gene Siskel that at the same time defines the kind of person he was (i.e., an event, a joke he told, act of kindness, something he said, etc.). Details of this memory would be much appreciated. He seemed like a genuine soul and it was fun to watch the two of you worked together.

My appreciation of him only grows over the years. He was formidably intelligent and much of his criticism grew from his skill as a reporter. He liked to say he "covered the movie beat." Some may dismiss that; he used it to apply inflicting honesty. I'm glad so many of our old shows survive on the net, because he was so funny.


On the first viewing of a movie, do you find yourself paying more attention to the mechanics of movie making (IE "What a bad shot," or "What good lighting/sound," or "That character draws attention away from the main plot in a bad way,") Or do have the ability to let the mechanics go and watch the movie like a "regular" movie viewer; to 'get lost in the story'?

The movie informs me how to look at it. In an ideal situation, I'm looking at everything all at once, just as an experienced sports fan is caught up in the excitement of a game, yet simultaneously observes strategy and technical details.


Has anybody ever thanked you for a negative review of one of their films?

In an ad, David Lynch once proudly proclaimed, "Two Thumbs Down!"


What do you think of meta-review sites like rottentomatoes and metacritic. Do you think they serve a good purpose, or do you not feel you can get a fair feel of a movie from aggregating reviews?

They tell you which way the wind is blowing, but no good review can be understood from a sentence or two. I think people understand that. My site gets a lot of hits from such sites, and IMDb, MRQE and MovieReviewIntelligence.


In your opinion, how important is re-watchability when judging a movie to be great?

Derek Malcolm, the British critic, says his definition of a great movie is: "One I can't stand the thought of never seeing again."


RIP Roger Joseph Ebert (June 18, 1942 – April 4, 2013)

Comments: 336 • Responses: 20  • Date: 

MercurialMadnessMom1031 karma

Son I'm so proud of you! Now after you've done playing with your imaginary friends on Reddit, you need to come downstairs and eat some of my freshly-baked cookies!

MercurialMadnessMan505 karma


Oh shit. This is the best novelty account i've ever seen :')

edit: and you waited two months?! god damn. This is like christmas

MercurialMadnessMom535 karma

I'll always be your biggest fan ;-)

MercurialMadnessMan334 karma

I think you've actually made my day awesome. That's pretty hard to do with a comment.

Exedous76 karma



djiivu4 karma

How could one not vote this up?

MercurialMadnessMan15 karma

Come on baxter, you know I don't speak spanish!

MercurialMadnessMan133 karma

(I've messaged a link to this to all the users who have a question that was answered here)

qgyh257 karma

Thank you for this. Can you ask if he can verify it - perhaps via twitter?

MercurialMadnessMan179 karma

I've been nagging him for months to respond. I'm not comfortable asking more from him. He's provided more than we requested already.

Here are requisite screenshots of our messages: 1, 2. Apparently this will be banned if it isn't verified, because it's a celebrity, but I don't think his email is public, so I'm not comfortable sharing that info for verification. I'll let this post sit here without a gold star. And I really have no motive to wait 7 months to post a fake IAmA ;)

orangeclouds72 karma

You've done well, MercurialMadnessMan.

bechus15 karma

I was worried that the whole drama a few months ago had ruined this opportunity.

MercurialMadnessMan6 karma

Fyi, me too :S

sje464 karma


MercurialMadnessMan29 karma

We ate bisque and then yadda yadda and now we're here.

Anzei8 karma

You yadda yadda'd over the best part!

MercurialMadnessMan21 karma

No, no... I mentioned the bisque.

myhandleonreddit68 karma

I can't believe you e-mailed him usernames like "tantric_fart".

MercurialMadnessMan51 karma

Yeah. Well. I can't believe he responded. =)

maxd33 karma

He has confirmed on his Twitter that this is genuine.

MercurialMadnessMan11 karma

Well, duh. I had to send him the link to put on his twitter =)

BenOfTomorrow53 karma

If it's fake, the OP has done an admirable job of duplicating Ebert's writing style.

Gimli_The_Dwarf51 karma

Agreed. It sounds exactly like him. And I honestly don't think anyone trying to fake Ebert would choose Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!

MercurialMadnessMan40 karma

I just turned 21 years old. The only movie he mentions that I've seen is "2001" :-/

socratessue20 karma

You've got your whole life ahead of you! Start now! <envious>

MercurialMadnessMan13 karma

How should I start?

[deleted]33 karma

what was the 15th question that he left unanswered?!

MercurialMadnessMan46 karma

Haha! Good question!

I gave him 15 questions, asked him to answer 10 of them, and he answered the first 14. So it's not like he was picking and choosing.

The 15th questions was:


Are you generally proud of the american film industry or do you believe there is too much emphasis on marketability and factors other than art?

ltjboy0326 karma

The Cubs fan sees inevitable tragedy unfolding.

I idolize no man. But Mr. Ebert is not simply a man. This is evident by witnessing all he's been through, the years and years of professional torment he's had to deal with along with the indescribable amount of respect he has earned in the industry; His battle with cancer that ended up taking half his face. He now speaks via keyboard, and yet, somehow, miraculously, he still has the sense of humor pf a 20 year old frat brother enjoying the time he has and letting none of his wit go to waste.

If you happen to read this Mr. Ebert, I have more respect and admiration for you than I can express in words and can only hope to become a sliver of the man (and hold half the strength) you are today.

Thank you for everything.

MercurialMadnessMan5 karma

I've passed along this comment to him :)

ewest25 karma

I'm right there with him on Synecdoche, New York. We should have an IAMA for Charlie Kaufman.

NobodyKnowsImaDog86 karma

Ebert's IAMA has taken the form of a 3 Act Play:

Act 1: The people of Reddit decide that they want Roger Ebert to do an IAMA. MercurialMadnessMan manages to contact Ebert and creates a IAMA thread. There is great hope.

Act 2: No answers for months. Has MercurialMadnessMan betrayed us? Has Ebert betrayed MMM? Complaint threads are started. Mobs assemble.

Act 3: Ebert responds to the IAMA. MecurialMadnessMan is reunited with his mom. The people of reddit are happy once more.

So I imagine that Charlie Kaufman's IAMA will go as follows:

Act 1: Reddit requests a Kaufman IAMA. MercurialMadnessMan has a dream in which he is an ape in a cage and Charlie Kaufman is a zoo keeper. In the dream he meets Snoo the brave Reddit Alien and they begin to fall in love.

Act 2: MercurialMadnessMom is worried about her son who is spending more and more time as an ape in the dream world. MMM is starting to wonder whether his time as an Ape may be reality and reddit is only a dream. He has never felt such love as he now feels for Snoo. Little does he know that Snoo relies on MMM's reddit posts to stay alive. Because MMM is spending so much time as an ape, Snoo is slowly dying.

Act 3: MMM realises that Snoo is dying and is forced to give up his love in order to save it. His mom is happy but he is not. He spends his nights crying and making posts to reddit so that Snoo might live. The camera pans out from his room. Down the corridor. Out the window. Back and Back. We see the city lights. We see continents. The earth. The solar system. The galaxy. The universe. Then nothing but blackness.


A cursor blinks.

I am Charlie Kaufman AMA_ _ _

MercurialMadnessMan13 karma

You have a beautiful mind... I think.

[deleted]22 karma

Thank you for putting this together and, more importantly, following through with it. You're the man, M3

MercurialMadnessMan7 karma


Spacksack3 karma

When I saw this IAMA, I thought you had been roger all that time and decided to come out.

... you can admit it ;-)

MercurialMadnessMan3 karma

I am the Batman

canadianquestion11 karma

Source for him walking out on Caligola IMDB

[deleted]3 karma

haha, i wonder what he did for cannibal holocaust, a year later...

socratessue7 karma

He didn't walk out of "Human Centipede".

P.S. In my mind I was calling this movie "Human Caterpillar", which then led my thoughts to that cute caterpillar in "A Bug's Life", and then...well, I just can't complete that particular train of thought.

MercurialMadnessMan5 karma

I just can't complete that particular centipede of thought

ElBeh7 karma

Fuck you, two of my friends died asking Roger Ebert questions.

MercurialMadnessMan2 karma


Edit: who is downvoting him? why?