Inhuman Swill : Roger Ebert

The trade-off

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Maggie Thatcher's dead,
but so is Roger Ebert.
Always a trade-off.

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On Tuesday I plan to sit down and watch The Oprah Winfrey Show for the first time, ever. I've seen bits and pieces before, but this will be the first time I watch the whole thing in a premeditated fashion. Hey, I want to hear Roger Ebert's new/old voice.

Ebert's new voice has been synthesized (and is being further refined) from DVD commentary tracks he recorded for a handful of movies. The Scottish company behind the voice is CereProc, which specializes in text-to-speech synthesizers that speak in a variety of accents. It's fun to play around with their live demo and make voices from all around the British Isles say vulgar and juvenile things.

As more and more of us litter the intertubes with extensive examples of our speaking voices, the easier it will be for convincing artificial versions of our voices to be cobbled together. I suppose the technology will have matured when it can pass a sort of text-to-speech Turing test—when someone can call your close friends or relatives by telephone or Skype or whatever and fool them into thinking they're talking to you.

Damn, I just got an idea for a story.

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Roger Ebert points out to us today that "The Greatest Game Ever Played was a game of golf, in case you thought your team might have been involved." Ha.

Laura and I saw a preview screening of The Greatest Game Ever Played Monday night. Structurally it was a mess—the first third or so succumbs to the lack of clarity about people, places, and relationships that seems to plague based-on-a-true-story period pieces. But even so, we both found the movie unexpectedly involving, and by the end we were both so caught up in the final match that we were clutching each other and applauding.

Bill Paxton's direction* calls maybe too much attention to itself, particularly in flashy CGI shots that follow golf balls along their dizzying trajectories, and Shia "Café" LaBeouf is good but not distinguised in the lead role. What makes the movie gripping, though, is that the showdown is between two very likeable characters who respect each other, either of whom we would be happy to see win.

Anyway, if you don't mind a blatantly manipulative, crowd-pleasing, feel-good historical golf epic, you'll probably enjoy this. We did.


If you like a good, dark, thoughtful thriller that successfully wrestles with Big Questions, see Bill Paxton's directorial debut, Frailty. It's harrowing. Highly recommended.

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More reasons I love Roger Ebert

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From Roger Ebert's print review of Deuce Bigelow: European Man Whore:

The movie created a spot of controversy last February. According to a story by Larry Carroll of MTV News, Rob Schneider took offense when Patrick Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times listed this year's Best Picture Nominees and wrote that they were "ignored, unloved and turned down flat by most of the same studios that ... bankroll hundreds of sequels, including a follow-up to 'Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo,' a film that was sadly overlooked at Oscar time because apparently nobody had the foresight to invent a category for Best Running Penis Joke Delivered by a Third-Rate Comic."

Schneider retaliated by attacking Goldstein in full-page ads in Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter. In an open letter to Goldstein, Schneider wrote: "Well, Mr. Goldstein, I decided to do some research to find out what awards you have won. I went online and found that you have won nothing. Absolutely nothing. No journalistic awards of any kind ... Maybe you didn't win a Pulitzer Prize because they haven't invented a category for Best Third-Rate, Unfunny Pompous Reporter Who's Never Been Acknowledged by His Peers."

Reading this, I was about to observe that Schneider can dish it out but he can't take it. Then I found he's not so good at dishing it out, either. I went online and found that Patrick Goldstein has won a National Headliner Award, a Los Angeles Press Club Award, a RockCritics.com award, and the Publicists' Guild award for lifetime achievement.

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Go, Roger!

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I love this quote from Roger Ebert's article in yesterday's Chicago Sun-Times with his predictions for Oscar nominations:

Supporting actor? If the academy passes over Willem Dafoe's astonishing work as a vampire in Shadow of the Vampire, I may have to hurl my coffee at the TV screen. If it nominates Albert Finney just because he was in Erin Brockovich, I know I will; he is such a powerful actor that he showed up that tepid role just by appearing in it.
As it turns out, both of them got nominated, as you probably know.

Ebert also hoped for a nomination for Wilson, the volleyball from Cast Away.

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