Books for the News, Commentary, Film and Media

The Grand Poobah of Them All

Roger Ebert is a man who needs no introduction—though clever pundits across America are certainly debating new taglines in light of his growing culinary expertise (from The Wind that Shakes the Barley to The Pot and How to Use It?). Early respondents to “Roger Ebert Presents at the Movies,” a new series from Chicago’s own WTTW, seem to agree on one thing: we want more Ebert! In the new show, Ebert takes a backseat to other critics—NPR’s Elvis Mitchell and the AP’s Christy Lemire, among them—introducing their views and serving as executive producer to the dueling critics format he made famous with Gene Siskel more than 35 years ago.
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Phil Rosenthal has a great piece in a recent issue of the Chicago Tribune that pines for a more Ebert-centered review program and gushes about the Great Movies series of columns and books, the most recent of which was published by the University of Chicago Press:

Ebert is interesting, insightful and entertaining on almost any subject. But anyone who has heard his DVD commentary tracks for films such as Citizen Kane and Casablanca will attest to how it enhances the viewing experience.
Were Ebert to adapt his “Great Movies” series of columns and books into a television showcase for those estimable films, that would be more than appointment viewing. It would be a must-own collector’s series of DVDs. More importantly, it would fill a void that still exists for a film fan even after checking the reviews of new releases from favorite critics in print and online.

Though health problems may have taken away Ebert’s physical voice, he’s only grown more verbal in the time since, actively blogging and Twittering reviews and opinions on all things film, while speaking with the help of a computer. He’ll put this to use on the new show, set to air in January 2010, in a weekly stand-alone segment, “Roger’s Office.” But if you, like Rosenthal, can’t get enough of the quips and criticisms that have made Ebert the beloved figure he is, won’t you try The Great Movies III, out just this fall and sure, like Ebert, to engage and delight? For more info, have a look at David Bordwell’s telling foreword to the book or explore the master at work in two other titles in the Chicago archives: Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert and Scorcese by Ebert.