Sunday, January 30, 2005

Ebert vs. Medved

In terms of opinions on films, I probably disagree with Roger Ebert as often as I do with Michael Medved. The difference between the two men, as far as I'm concerned, more about the quality of their work (which is to give their opinions) rather than the content, i.e. Ebert is an excellent writer of scholarly film reviews, whereas Medved has degenerated into a predictable political commentator who uses the fig leaf of film reviews to push his agenda.

I bring this up because, ever since Medved became newsworthy for his "crusade" to spoil the ending of "Million Dollar Baby," Ebert has been admirably at the forefront of calling him out about it. It's no secret that much of the "mainstream" film press is at constant odds with Medved and his allies, but this is the first time it's boiled over so publicly.

Here's Ebert's column on the subject, which I must say is the finest summation of the situation I've yet read. (DO NOT CLICK THIS if you haven't seen the movie)

It goes without saying that I'm with Ebert on this one, but thats not why I'm so fond of this piece. What I like is, Ebert isn't just making some general gesture of dissaproval for spoilers, he's giving Medved's whole act the once-over it's richly deserved for a long time.

Money quote: "Medved has for a long time been a political commentator, not a movie critic, but he must remember from his earlier days that moviegoers do NOT want to be informed of key plot surprises, and write enraged letters to critics who violate this code."

Bullseye. Real critics have been much too accomodating of Medved for too long, and it's time someone with Ebert's clout said what needed saying: Medved isn't primarily a film critic anymore, he's a political pundit who makes his points in the guise of "movie reviews" to get more exposure for his agenda and the agendas of people he considers allies.

As to Medved's defense of his actions, that he believes that the film's surprises are hidden to "trick" people into seeing a message-movie rather than for dramatic purposes, Ebert also offers a deft takedown:

"Medved appeared on Pat Robertson's "700 Club" to describe the plot in great detail. The outcome of the movie does not match their beliefs. They object to it. That is their right. To engage in a campaign to harm the movie for those who may not agree with them is another matter."

On the same subject, Jim Emerson, the editor of Ebert's website, offers up a most-agreeing second opinion on the issue. It's a good piece in it's own right, covering the issue from a broader perspective than just Medved's transgression, and incorporating the thoughts of a slew of other critics as well:

Meanwhile, Medved hasn't yet responded specifically or in depth to Ebert, but he's been busy on his other projects; such as trying to deflate the currently-popular "truism" that the Academy Award's snubbing of "The Passion" is merely the "far-right" counterweight to the snubbing of the "far-left" "Fahrenheit 9-11":

His central argument here is that the comparison is flawed because Fahrenheit is nakedly political but Passion is not. I have only this in response: If Medved cannot see anything political in the making of an ultra-traditionalist religious film, focused 100% on pain, punishment and retribution to the exclusion of all other virtues, marketed as a film that "liberal" Hollywood "doesn't want you to see," then he is either FAR less insightful than I had thought, or he is being intellectually dishonest with us.

But what do you think?