Seven months ago, there was a [[Request]](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/a05if/iama_request_roger_ebert/) 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?
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)