Saturday, April 6, 2013


For anyone who has studied journalism, you learn about all aspects of the genre.  You also never know when you will wind up behind a desk giving restaurant reviews or working the graveyard shift giving news updates for the local radio station.  

You learn that a neophyte fresh out of journalism school or one who has ticked off an editor or who "can't hack it" in hard news any longer were usually dumped into covering the entertainment news desk interviewing dolphins at the local zoo. 

Today, in the world of 24/7 "gossip and gotcha" journalism (if you can call it journalism) money and ratings talk; however, there are still those who are around in entertainment reporting that one can respect as a journalist (do not see Rex Reed).  Roger Ebert, film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, television host and blogger, was one of the few [remaining].

(Read more about Ebert's SWATH review after the break)

Mr. Ebert won a Pulitzer in 1975 for his film critiques.  This is an unprecedented feat in the world of journalism because hard news wins Pulitzers. But this is what makes him a legend at what he did as a film critic.

Mr. Ebert was not like most of those so-called critics you may read on Rotten Tomatoes who appear to have never studied film in any way shape or form to even have enough knowledge to form an opinion to give a knowledgeable critique. 

But unlike what one may read on Rotten Tomatoes, Mr. Ebert did not write a critique to make himself look bigger and the actor look smaller.  He was not malicious for the sake of making a name for himself or going with the crowd regurgitating soliloquies of the same nonsensical gibberish faking its way as a film critique.  

You can read that he used care with the words he wrote even when he thought a movie truly wreaked.  You knew it came from an eye which appreciated the art of film.  He knew his craft.

Mr. Ebert would also express a political point of view from time to time (See his statement about depriving "real dwarves jobs" in the review below). If he needed to speak out and make a political statement regarding the material he was viewing, he did it regardless if you liked it or not. He was refreshingly honest.

Mr. Ebert passed on April 4, 2013 in Chicago.  He wrote critiques up until he could not do it any longer promising to return after he fought off another bout with cancer. 

Mr. Ebert did get a chance to see and review the film we know and love on this site called "Snow White and the Huntsman."  When others tried to find fault or tear down the film in any way they could like a gang of bullies taking on the nerdy kids, he saw the art for what it was..."astonishing." He understood the limitations of the story but found beauty in the film regardless.

Below is Mr. Ebert's entire 3 1/2 star "thumbs up" review of Snow White and the Huntsman.  It was honest.  It pointed out a few weaknesses. But you can respect what he is stating even if you disagree.  He enjoyed a lot about the film i.e. the landscape, the Enchanted Forest but thought there could have been less battle scenes.  (Note from Author: I liked those battle scenes by the way.) 

As Mr. Ebert puts it:

 "... considering that I walked in expecting no complexity at all, let alone the visual wonderments, "Snow White and the Huntsman" is a considerable experience. " 

"It falters in its storytelling, because Snow White must be entirely good, the Queen must be entirely bad, and there's no room for nuance. The end is therefore predetermined. But, oh, what a ride."

Mr. Ebert, what a ride you've given us over the years. We loved every minute of it...and we thank you. Two thumbs up sir.  You will be missed.

Find out details about funeral and memorial services here.

Roger Ebert's Review of 
"Snow White and the Huntsman"

"Snow White and the Huntsman" reinvents the legendary story in a film of astonishing beauty and imagination. It's the last thing you would expect from a picture with this title. It falters in its storytelling, because Snow White must be entirely good, the Queen must be entirely bad, and there's no room for nuance. The end is therefore predetermined. But, oh, what a ride. 

This is an older Snow White than we usually think of. Played for most of the film by Kristen Stewart, capable and plucky, she has spent long years locked in a room of her late father's castle, imprisoned by his cruel second wife (Charlize Theron). When she escapes and sets about righting wrongs, she is a mature young woman, of interest to the two young men who join in her mission. But the movie sidesteps scenes of romance, and in a way, I suppose that's wise. 

The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) is a heroic, mead-guzzling hunter assigned by the Queen to track down Snow White and bring her back to the castle. After encountering her, however, he is so impressed he changes sides. There is also Prince William (Sam Claflin), smitten since childhood, and the two men join in an unstated alliance. 

The Queen lives in terror of losing the beauty of her youth and constantly tops up with the blood of virgins to restore it. She tests her success with the proverbial mirror on the wall, which melts into molten metal and assumes a spectral form, not unlike Death in "The Seventh Seal," although its metallic transformation process reminds us of "The Terminator." 

The castle, which sits in eerie splendor on an island joined to the mainland only at low tide, is a gothic fantasy that reminds me of the Ghormenghast series. The Queen is joined there by her brother, somewhat diminished by his blond page-boy haircut, who does her bidding but seems rather out to lunch. Extras appear when needed, then disappear. The Queen commands extraordinary supernatural powers, including the ability to materialize countless black birds that can morph into fighting demons or shards of cutting metal. 

All of this is rendered appropriately by the special effects, but the treasure of this film is in two of its locations: a harsh, forbidding Dark Forest, and an enchanted fairyland. Both of these realms exist near the castle, and the Huntsman is enlisted in the first place because he knows the Dark Forest, where Snow White has taken refuge. 

In this forbidding realm, nothing lives, and it is thick with the blackened bones of dead trees, as if a forest fire had burned only the greenery. There is no cheer here and a monstrous troll confronts Snow White in a dramatic stare-down. After the Huntsman frees her from the Dark Forest, they are delighted to find, or be found by, the Eight Dwarves. 

Yes, eight, although one doesn't survive, reducing their number to the proverbial seven. These characters look strangely familiar, and no wonder: The magic of CGI has provided the faces of familiar British actors such as Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan and Toby Jones. While this technique is effective, it nevertheless deprives eight working (real) dwarves with jobs, which isn't really fair. 

The dwarves lead them to my favorite realm in the film, an enchanting fairyland, which is a triumph of art direction and CGI. Mushrooms open their eyes and regard the visitors. Cute forest animals scamper and gambol in tribute to a forest scene in Disney's 1937 animated film. The fairies themselves are naked, pale-skinned sprites with old, wise faces. The spirit of this forest is embodied by a great white stag with expressive eyes and horns that spread in awesome complexity. This is a wonderful scene. The director, Rupert Sanders, who began in TV commercials, is clearly familiar with establishing memorable places. 

As for the rest, there is a sufficiency of medieval battle scenes, too many for my taste, and a fairly exciting siege of the castle, aided by the intervention of the dwarves, and featuring catapults that hurl globes of burning tar — always enjoyable. 

There is a great film here somewhere, perhaps one that allowed greater complexity for the characters. But considering that I walked in expecting no complexity at all, let alone the visual wonderments, "Snow White and the Huntsman" is a considerable experience.

Review & photo source:

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