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"The best single film criticism site.."
January 23, 2011 9:16 PM   Subscribe

Roger Ebert: "In the last year or two, the world's cinema has become even more available. This instant, sitting right here, I can choose to watch virtually any film you can think of via Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, MUBI, the Asia/Pacific Film Archive, Google Video or Vimeo. At Europa Film Treasures, I can watch films none of us has heard of." Ebert on how the accessibility of film online is making for more and better film criticism from around the world "..by their early 20s, Wael Khairy of Cairo and Seongyong Cho of Seoul had seen every significant film ever made." "The best single film criticism site is arguably davidbordwell.net".

Others: Internet Archive, Jaman, ...
posted by stbalbach (24 comments total) 97 users marked this as a favorite

 
Bordwell! My Film Art text book! I thought that name was familiar.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:31 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


In somewhat related news, his new prosthetic face is looking good.
posted by spiderskull at 9:52 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I love, love, love, that Ebert is so interested in this. The phenomenon of cinema becoming available to everyone is arguably why I quit the film criticism game. And I'm not proud of that. My friends and I were a small and very special crowd. Then suddenly we weren't. Honestly, I didn't know what to do with that, and kind of lost the plot.

But years later, I can now see that the fact that every 20 year old with just a passing interest in film has seen The Seventh Seal and The Killer and can talk about why they're both important is an unalloyed good thing.

Ebert is bloodied but unbowed, the film geek we all should have been.
posted by lumpenprole at 9:54 PM on January 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wonder if he'd feel the same way if he were just starting in the industry today. The internet has been great for amateur content given freely, not for people who would like to (crazy thought) work in an industry like journalism and support a family. Ebert's clearly beyond worrying about a paycheck but that list of unemployed critics is hard to spin, no matter what DVDs the wunderkinds in Istanbul have seen.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:03 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't mean to nitpick, but Ebert forgot about the "super-secret" pirating torrent sites that share hard to find movie prints and VHS that haven't been released to DVD. Such sites precede pretty much all of the online movie sites Ebert listed including NetFlix's streaming service. Then again maybe Ebert just doesn't know about them because they're "super-secret". Shh... Keep a high seed ratio or else...
posted by Arthur Phillips Jones Jr at 11:11 PM on January 23, 2011


It's great that anyone can watch the classics, but: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKiIroiCvZ0

Seriously, there's nothing tidy about the future of watching movies. 25 years from now what the storage situation going to be for all the digital archives. Nobody knows. Sure, somebody will save "The Seventh Seal" and "The Killer". But we'll more than likely wind up with a whole generation of lost films or really shitty YouTube versions. All in the name of the digital revolution.

I can still find a 50 year old 35mm or 16mm print and run it through a projector. You won't be able to do that 50 years from now with a file archived today. DVDs and the "innernette" are great, but let's not pretend like they're the greatest thing about the future of movies. They're the shittiest thing.
posted by altersego at 11:12 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Doesn't replace the experience of seeing film in the cinema!
posted by ReeMonster at 11:13 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


They're the shittiest thing.

As resources get scarcer the interfaces get smaller. Eventually the only tangible thing will be the light, I'm afraid.
posted by clarknova at 11:20 PM on January 23, 2011


Did anybody catch Ebert's new show on PBS? Is there video of it online yet? I'm curious how his segment went.
posted by dgaicun at 12:24 AM on January 24, 2011


They're the shittiest thing.

Surely though, the accessibility is the overarching theme here. I'd love to be able to see every film I wanted in 35mm, but that frankly isn't possible. Heck, it's difficult even in the largest cities (looking at you NYC).

I remember being in film class and listening to our professor going on about the brilliance of seeing a film in the cinema. He'd then go on to show us a film in VHS. Because that's how the film was available.

Ideally, I like to see a film as it's meant to be presented. But if all I have is an okay-quality youtube link, I'll take that because at least I'll be able to watch the movie. And the picture quality situation is getting much beter (especially with Bluray and even HD streaming).
posted by timelord at 12:49 AM on January 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Did anybody catch Ebert's new show on PBS? Is there video of it online yet? I'm curious how his segment went.

I did catch the new show. I like the hosts -- they seem to be different enough in approach to keep the reviews interesting, but both knowledgeable enough that they aren't just spouting "I like this" for no good reason.

Ebert's segment was amusing. First there was a kind of pastiche on the film trailer for the Mercury Theater and Citizen Kane, introducing the staff of the new show. Then there was also a piece with Werner Herzog being Ebert's voice, reviewing a short film.

I'm not able to find any video online, but then, I really shouldn't even be awake at this hour.
posted by hippybear at 1:31 AM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Surely though, the accessibility is the overarching theme here. I'd love to be able to see every film I wanted in 35mm, but that frankly isn't possible. Heck, it's difficult even in the largest cities (looking at you NYC).

I don't think altersego is bemoaning the delivery, necessarily, more that the source is going the way of uselessness. We could look like an awfully dark age to future historians.
posted by rodgerd at 1:34 AM on January 24, 2011


dgaicun: "Did anybody catch Ebert's new show on PBS? Is there video of it online yet? I'm curious how his segment went."

It's online on his site, although cut up into four minute chunks, probably for easier FB/twitter sharing of segments. I haven't gotten a chance to watch it yet though.
posted by octothorpe at 4:44 AM on January 24, 2011


To drive home Ebert's point about the availability of film, those of us old enough remember how difficult it was to be a film buff before the mid-eighties. Before VCRs, you had to either see a movie in the theater or watch it hacked to pieces on broadcast TV. As a young film nerd, I used to grab the TV listings from the Sunday paper and circle all of the movies that were playing in the coming week. And you had to watch it while it was showing since there was no way to record it. If I was lucky, I could catch showings of classic movies at museums or libraries.

I remember writing a term paper on science fiction movies for ninth grade English and having to rely on descriptions of most of the movies from books since I hadn't actually seen them.
posted by octothorpe at 5:13 AM on January 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


Doesn't replace the experience of seeing film in the cinema!

Or rather, the experience of paying a high price to choose one of a few mass market movies and sit in a cramped seat with sticky floors while a kid kicks the back of your chair and the teenagers in front talk on their cell phones and the underpaid employee turns the sound up too high or down too low has been replaced with the option of paying a low price to watch any of a vast array of rare, genre, subtitled, or mainstream movies at a time of your choosing, in your own home, in a comfortable space and with great sound.
posted by Forktine at 6:23 AM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can still find a 50 year old 35mm or 16mm print and run it through a projector.

I can't. Film and projectors -- especially antique ones -- are for people who have money or who happen to live where the projectors and prints are stored (assuming they have access rights to them).

A file, along with a decoder and player for that file, can be distributed (legally and illegally) from and to just about anywhere for the cost of a PC with an internet connection, which is a very low hurdle considering many millions of people already own such setups. I can download just about every film in the world, I can store multiple copies of movies and pass on copies for almost nothing, and I can convert one format to another quickly and easily for distribution and preservation in the target format.

And you will be able to do that in 50 years assuming the same sort of infrastructure that preserves films and projectors is also around to preserve software. Instead of film copies in one or two vaults, you have file copies distributed all over the world. Copies can be compared automatically to ensure that each copy is in good condition. Software emulators in 50 years will be able to play or convert any file format we use now, probably entirely automatically by detecting the file format and locating (or automatically writing) the software needed to play it.
posted by pracowity at 6:31 AM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Professor Bordwell! I dropped his class! I wish I hadn't.
posted by droplet at 7:23 AM on January 24, 2011


I'm a bit of a silent film buff, and it's getting harder and harder for me to justify getting out to the movie theater to see things when I can watch freshly restored/missing footage added releases of classics like Battleship Potemkin and Metropolis at home through Netflix. Fortunately here in Austin there's a thriving culture of silent films with live scores; that's an experience you can't get in your living room. I hope it never goes away.
posted by immlass at 7:59 AM on January 24, 2011


Of course, many of those streaming sites only let you watch if you are in the US. My understanding is that Netflix's streaming options in Canada are... Not nearly as good. And nevermind Hulu or Amazon.
posted by antifuse at 8:19 AM on January 24, 2011


To drive home Ebert's point about the availability of film, those of us old enough remember how difficult it was to be a film buff before the mid-eighties. Before VCRs, you had to either see a movie in the theater or watch it hacked to pieces on broadcast TV.

As a mid-eighties film nerd, my approach was successful, but was not the kind of thing that would work for everyone. I worked as an assistant manager at an art-house rep cinema. I would suggest to the manager, "Hey, John, this Talking Heads concert film, Stop Making Sense, got a great write-up in The Village Voice. What say we book it in next month?" And hey presto, I would get to watch it on a thirty-foot high screen a month later.

As well, although the theatre had a balcony, it was closed off to keep out seating below 300 (at which point different regulations kicked in). So I got to watch it with no neighbours (of course, arthouse movie-goers are better behaved than cineplex customers, but they still occasionally make noise.

But yes, I agree about broadcast TV. The very last movie I watched on commercial TV was Aliens, when it was broadcast somewhere along about 1990. I had heard thee were some extra scenes in the broadcast version, so I wanted to see it. Indeed there was extra footage, but it was not even remotely worth it. The one undeniable strength of that flick is its pacing, and when we stop the action every twelve minutes to see dancing rabbits sing about toilet paper, it loses quite a lot of its momentum.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:20 AM on January 24, 2011


Indeed there was extra footage, but it was not even remotely worth it. The one undeniable strength of that flick is its pacing, and when we stop the action every twelve minutes to see dancing rabbits sing about toilet paper, it loses quite a lot of its momentum.

What? You hadn't heard about Ridley Scott's with futuristic space bathrooms?
posted by graventy at 9:05 AM on January 24, 2011


ugh. James Cameron, of course, and fascination.

You hadn't heard about James Cameron's fascination with futuristic space bathrooms?
posted by graventy at 9:06 AM on January 24, 2011


Haha, Werner Herzog as Roger Ebert's voice is a terrible idea. The review of the "heartwarming" kids movie somehow comes off as a journey into the heart of darkness a la those Herzog parody videos on Youtube.

Next week I think they're going to use Morgan Freeman to review Saw 12, and it will somehow still seem like your kindly uncle reading a Christmas story.

I was hoping his segment would use the new pimped-out Ebertized Hawking voice.
posted by dgaicun at 9:46 AM on January 24, 2011


graventy, I though the line "What? You hadn't heard about Ridley Scott's with futuristic space bathrooms?" was a play on the name of Scott's bathroom tissue. You may have been funnier before you were clear! :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 10:08 AM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


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