I just learned (with sadness) that film critic Roger Ebert has passed on. In this post, I would like to highlight my favorite movie reviews that he did. I cannot access his page, so I will write on the basis of what I remember.
UPDATE: The site of Ebert’s reviews is now back up. It appears that I misremembered some of the reviews that I read. For example, Ebert did not teach in an inner-city school, but in a black area in Cape Town, South Africa. On his Walk to Remember review, he says that Mandy Moore’s performance is not typical of a lot of teenage dramas, but he doesn’t explicitly praise her for playing a Christian.
The Rapture (1991): Mimi Rogers plays a swinger and a lonely telephone operator who converts to Christianity, only to later leave the faith later in the movie. Roger Ebert said that her character learned what many people learn: that the world is not fair. Roger Ebert’s reviews were often honest and thoughtful about faith, both when he was praising faith-affirming films, and also when he was praising films that offended a lot of conservative Christians.
Dangerous Minds (1995): I vaguely recall reading in Robert Ebert’s review of this movie that he once taught in an inner-city school.
The Majestic (2001): Jim Carrey plays a man who loses his memory during the McCarthyite era. He defends the Constitution before the House Committee on Un-American activities. Roger Ebert said that the film had an important lesson, in a time when the government might seek to undermine our civil liberties. This was during the aftermath of 9/11.
Star Wars II: Attack of the Cones (2001): I laughed when Roger Ebert mocked the wooden dialogue on this particular Star Wars movie, especially the part where Anakin says to Padme that she is not like sand because sand is course and rough, whereas she is soft and smooth.
A Walk to Remember (2002): Mandy Moore plays the devout daughter of a preacher. She is marginalized at her school, yet the popular bad boy falls in love with her. But she is dying of leukemia. Roger Ebert praised Mandy Moore for choosing to play a devout Christian in a movie, an unlikely move for many actresses seeking popularity.
The Passion of the Christ (2004): Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ was an extremely controversial movie, as some praised the film as an affirmation of the Christian faith, whereas others contended that it was anti-Semitic and excessively violent. Roger Ebert tactfully acknowledged that those who criticized the film had valid concerns, yet he thoughtfully disagreed with them. Ebert gave the film four stars.
Lady in the Water (2006): Ebert ripped this film to shreds! But he still acknowledged that it had a moment of thoughtfulness: when one of the character’s was trying to hear from God by looking at cereal boxes.
Doubt (2008): Viola Davis was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in this movie, even though she was not in the movie for that long. But, Ebert noted, Viola did hold her own before the most widely-renowned actress of this decade (Meryl Streep). (Or maybe Ebert said it was longer than a decade!)
R.I.P., Roger Ebert. I’ll miss your thoughtful movie reviews, and your humble and insightful reflections on life, politics, and faith.