Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Roger Ebert's Movie Home Companion, 1990 Edition

1990, probably first edition, from Andrews and Macmeel
Roger Ebert
Roger Ebert's Movie Home Companion, 1990 Edition: Full Length Reviews of Twenty Years of Movies on Video
Bought new for $12.95
Very worn paperback

This would've been Ebert's 71st birthday.  (He shared it with Paul McCartney.)  When he died a couple months ago, in the midst of many other celebrities (including Annette Funicello), his death affected me most.  I'd recently been watching some of his old shows with Gene Siskel, on VHS and at siskelandebert.org, and I really missed them as a pairing.  Also, I admired Ebert's bravery in the face of cancer.

That said, this collection isn't as much fun as Rex Reed's Big Screen, Little Screen (1971), which mentions "bright, sassy, young Roger Ebert."  Reed appears here in the review of Q AKA The Winged Serpent (1982), talking with AIP's Samuel Z. Arkoff.
Reed: Sam! I just saw The Winged Serpent!  What a surprise!  All that dreck-- and right in the middle of it, a great Method performance by Michael Moriarty!
Arkoff:  The dreck was my idea.

There are some nice moments like that, but too much of the book is about movies I don't care about, sometimes described redundantly, as if made for easy cutting in different newspapers.  Also, Roger is too easy a grader, with lots of three-and-a-half and four-stars, except when he misses the boat, as with Harold and Maude and Raising Arizona (both one-and-a-half).  The "Film Clips" section, celebrity interviews towards the end, is kind of dull, except for Teri Garr and one or two others.  I do like the "special sections" on black & white (this was a few years after he and Siskel began the fight against colorization), as well as the Glossary of Movie Terms such as "Fruit Cart!" (inevitable in chase scenes of the time) and the Balloon Rule:  "No good movie has ever contained a hot-air balloon.  (Except for The Wizard of Oz.)"  (Recent examples include The Ugly Truth and Oz the Great and Powerful, Ebert noting this in his review of the former, yet somehow failing to mention it with the latter, which he gave two-and-a-half stars.)

The review of "State-of-the-Art TV Projectors" is interesting in terms of what was state of the art then, and his predictions on other home-viewing technology.  (This was a time when laser discs were much better than VHS but therefore more expensive.)  As for the movies, with the exception of some rereleases (including a restored Lawrence of Arabia), they go from 1970 (notably including M*A*S*H and Woodstock) to 1989.  In fact, the copyright on this book is actually 1989, as if it's a car and must be dated ahead.

I don't imagine most people would want to read this edition for any reason other than to see what Ebert thought about the movies at that time, and to be honest, you're probably better off looking up his individual print reviews at rogerebert.com, or better yet watching him spar and joke with Gene on their shows.  Still, I'll give a thumb slightly up.

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