November 17, 2008
Running Off, Barking At Cats
Roger Ebert — yes, that Roger Ebert — is writing one of the best blogs around. Not just about movies either. I think blog-writing has made Ebert’s movie reviews better — more fun, more adventurous. His review of Charlie Kaufmann’s Synecdoche, NY is a delight, and his own summary is the best: “Fair warning: I begin with a parable, continue with vast generalizations, finally get around to an argument with Entertainment Weekly, and move on to Greek gods, ‘I Love Lucy’ and a house on fire.”
Consider his paean to the humble rice cooker, “The Pot and How to Use It”:
First, get the Pot. You need the simplest rice cooker made. It comes with two speeds: Cook, and Warm. Not expensive. Now you’re all set to cook meals for the rest of your life on two square feet of counter space, plus a chopping block. No, I am not putting you on the Rice Diet. Eat what you like. I am thinking of you, student in your dorm room. You, solitary writer, artist, musician, potter, plumber, builder, hermit. You, parents with kids. You, night watchman. You, obsessed computer programmer or weary web-worker. You, lovers who like to cook together but don’t want to put anything in the oven. You, in the witness protection program. You, nutritional wingnut. You, in a wheelchair.
And you, serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. You, person on a small budget who wants healthy food. You, shut-in. You, recovering campaign worker. You, movie critic at Sundance. You, sex worker waiting for the phone to ring. You, factory worker sick of frozen meals. You, people in Werner Herzog’s documentary about life at the South Pole. You, early riser skipping breakfast. You, teenager home alone. You, rabbi, pastor, priest,, nun, waitress, community organizer, monk, nurse, starving actor, taxi driver, long-haul driver. Yes, you, reader of the second-best best-written blog on the internet.
A month ago, there was a minor dust-up when Ebert gave a negative review to a movie he’d walked out on after eight minutes. Taken by itself, as it appeared in the newspaper, it’s either a brilliant stroke (Ebert gets more information out of those eight minutes than most of us would get out of five viewings) or a cheap joke. But in the blog, it becomes a kind of metaperformance, framed by Ebert’s acknowledgement that this is a risky practice (and one he ultimately recanted, at least in the way he did it). It’s both a self-examination and collective review of the original review.