Roger Ebert is the best film reviewer of all time

Here are the first six graphs of Roger Ebert’s review of “Death Sentence”:

When he was asked by Johnny Carson how a magazine could quote him saying he really would murder to avenge his family, Charles Bronson looked Carson in the eye and said, “Because the quote is accurate. I really could, and I would.” There was a little silence then, because Bronson was totally convincing.

He was publicizing “Death Wish” (1974), his film about a man whose wife is killed and daughter raped. He gets a gun and starts posing as bait for muggers, a middle-aged guy with a bag of groceries. Then he shoots them dead. I think he kills about 11 victims (17 in the book) and is nicknamed “The New York Vigilante,” but the homicide rate drops 50 percent in New York, and so a cop cuts him a deal: Get out of town. As the film ends, he’s drawing a bead on a guy in Chicago.

Funny thing. When Bronson made “Death Wish II” (1982), it was set in Los Angeles, even though Brian Garfield, the author of the novel Death Wish, had written a 1975 sequel, Death Sentence, set in Chicago. Ah, yes, here’s my copy right here, dedicated to “Jay Robert Nash, John McHugh, Roger Ebert and Bill Granger, Chicago front-pagers all, with thanks.”

He was thanking us because he’d come to Chicago to research the city (in two days, as I recall), and we agreed to meet him at the Billy Goat to feed him the real dope. The Goat (“no fries, cheeps”) is a hamburger-and-booze emporium tucked away on the lower level of Michigan Avenue, responsible for the enticing aroma of frying onions that pedestrians enjoy in front of the Wrigley Building. You will recognize the tavern on the book’s Page 27, “a block from Tribune Tower and equidistant from the Sun-Times and Daily News press rooms.” His hero figures police reporters who hang out there “might be the best source of information about the unfamiliar city.” He carries his beer to the back of the bar, where “there were nine or 10 men and women roughed up by alcohol and cigarettes and the cynicism of insider’s experience.” He got the Billy Goat right.

Bronson went on to make “Death Wish 3” (1985), “Death Wish 4” (1987) and “Death Wish V” (1994), by which date he was 73 and didn’t need the bag of groceries as bait. They were set variously in Los Angeles and New York, largely filmed in Toronto, and never did get back to Chicago, reportedly because Garfield hated the first movie and its sequels so much he would never sell the rights to Death Sentence. But now here at last, in 2007, is “Death Sentence,” and it is filmed in, that’s right, South Carolina. It doesn’t follow the book, either.

Kevin Bacon steps into the Bronson role, although curiously, even with the real sequel to work with, his name is changed from Paul Benjamin to Nick Hume. In the movie’s first press releases, he was John Hume. In the Bronson movies, he was Paul Kersey. There is always a legal reason for these things. I favor John Paul. Probably another bad idea. You may have no interest in the information I’ve shared so far, but I’ll bet you don’t read it anywhere else. Probably a reason for that, too.

Nope, I was interested. Ebert’s a fantastic writer — won a Pulitzer Prize for film reviews. I miss being able to pick up his reviews.

By | December 23rd, 2014|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Zayed University prepares for UAE National Day

The halls of ZU are covered with fabric and old-fashioned lamp lighting in preparation for National Day later this week. For the uninformed, National Day celebrates the founding of the United Arab Emirates on Dec. 2, 1971. From what I’m told, this country goes a little crazy during celebrations marking the historical event.

By | November 28th, 2010|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Abu Dhabi Movie Listings

If you’re looking for film listings in Abu Dhabi, UAE, then I suggest going to the Abu Dhabi Week movie listings page. They’ve just started offering the comprehensive service, and it was desperately needed. When you Google Abu Dhabi Movie Listings, the top result right now is about a year out of date.

Just doing my part to help improve the search engine efficiency in my city. If your company needs help with Search Engine Optimization in Abu Dhabi, contact me.

By | November 27th, 2010|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Today’s ethos: Find fault elsewhere

I find myself agreeing with every David Brooks’ column I read. His latest is no exception. First, he points out that the U.S. budget deficit and huge debt is a big problem that neither party appears ready to address. The GOP steadfastly refuses to discuss raising taxes as part of a bi-partisan deal. The Democrats, meanwhile, refuse to discuss any type of entitlement reform. Then, Brooks goes a step further and makes a prescient observation about the virtue of today’s political class:

For centuries, American politicians did not run up huge peacetime debts. It wasn’t because they were unpartisan or smarter or more virtuous. It was because they were constrained by a mentality inherited from the founders. According to this mentality, a big successful nation exists in a state of equilibrium between its many factions. This equilibrium is fragile because we are flawed and fallen creatures and can’t quite trust ourselves. So all of us, but especially members of the leadership class, should practice self-restraint. Moral anxiety restrained hubris (don’t think your side possesses the whole truth) and self-indulgence (debt corrupts character).

This ethos has dissolved, on left and right. The new mentality sees the country not as an equilibrium, but as a battlefield in which the people, who are pure and virtuous, do battle against the interests or the elites, who stand in the way of the people’s happiness.

The ideal leader in this mental system is free from moral anxiety but full of passionate intensity. This leader pushes his troops in lock step before the voracious foe. Each party has its own version of whom the evil elites are, but both feel they’ve more to fear from their enemies than from their own sinfulness.

Compromise is thus impossible. Money matters should be negotiable, but how can one compromise with opponents who are the source of all corruption

Yes, exactly. Each political party has created an “other” that can’t be reasoned with. The GOP sees a Marxist-minded president bent on destroying capitalism as we know it. The Democrats see a bunch of Fox News-watching rubes suffering from their own lack of education.

Perhaps it’s not the other party, but our own skewed perceptions that have been corrupted. It’s hard to find fault with oneself when you’re sure all the fault lies with someone else.

Too bad no one’s listening.

By | November 23rd, 2010|Uncategorized|3 Comments