Films I Neglected To Review: Django On BaseBy Peter Sobczynski
Posted 04/11/13 14:45:12
Please enjoy short reviews of "42" and "Upstream Color," a brief overview of the first Chicago Critics Film Festival and a few memories about the late, great Roger Ebert
It offers no insights into Robinson's story other than the obvious ones about how Racism Is Bad and how Stealing Home is Good. By having Rickey initially suggest that his decision to hire Robinson is strictly business, it sets up a potentially interesting exploration of how the notion of rich white men buying and selling black men in order to make money off of their labors transmogrified from the horrors of slavery to the more acceptable form practiced by professional sports but immediately chickens out--Rickey gets a noble speech or 12 at the end that tries and fails to make the film into something akin to "Schindler's Lineup Card." As Robinson, newcomer acquits himself reasonably well (though Robinson himself did a better job in the role in the long-forgotten quickie "Jackie Robinson") while Harrison Ford is a blustery embarrassment as Rickey--although he makes more of an obvious effort than he has with many of his recent performances, he so thoroughly overdoes it here that you'll want to send him back to dramatic Triple-A after only a few minutes. "42" is a film that really should have been a home run but after watching this vaguely noble and deeply dull disappointment, most viewers will be more likely to score it as a balk.
I was in the middle of writing up some reviews last week when I heard the news about the passing of my friend and colleague Roger Ebert. At first, I was too shocked to say anything but after a few minutes, I typed out a few thoughts on Facebook with the plan of later going back and writing a more befitting tribute. However, looking back on what I wrote, I cannot really think of anything that I could add to it and however inadequate it may be as writing, it nevertheless encapsulates my feelings towards a man whose death I have still not begun to properly process.
Anyway, in the event that you missed it on Facebook and have any interest, here is what I wrote. . .
Okay, I will say something. . .
Today I spent most of my day writing up a bunch of reviews and also took some time out to do an interview over the phone regarding a film festival that I am helping to put together. I can almost certainly assure you I would not have been doing either of those things--or most of the things that I have done in my life--if it wasn't for Roger Ebert.
As a film critic, he was without peer. More so than any film or journalism class that I have taken over the years, I learned how to watch movies from his writings and was able to develop my own taste in cinema as a result. (Of course, considering some of the stuff I have gravitated towards, this might not be something he would have wanted to get credited for but I mean it in the most sincere way possible.) Even if I disagreed with one of his reviews--and there were many of those--it was still fascinating to read where he was coming from and to reconcile his opinions with mine.
As a person, he was also without peer. I knew him for more than 20 years and in all that time, I don't recall ever seeing him in a bad mood or with a cross word for anyone he encountered. I also do not recall anyone who has ever had an even mildly disparaging thing to say about him, even from those whose films he trashed.
From a personal standpoint, I offer this. When I was maybe 7 years old, I wrote a letter to him at the Sun-Times--I think it had something to do with "The Warriors" and how there should be a warning in the ratings for violence (this was when fights were breaking out in theaters during screenings)--and he not only took the time to write back a nice response, he even threw in a bunch of passes to boot. I showed him that note years later and he claimed to be amazed and that this was not something that he did very often. Somehow, I suspect that he probably did that a lot more than he thinks.
He was always supportive of me and my work as a critic--a rare enough feat in a business like film criticism where people are always cagey in regards to the work of their colleagues and especially rare when you consider that he was at the pinnacle of our chosen profession and I was somewhat lower on the ladder. One time I was at a reception for his annual film festival and for some reason, the celebrated Yugoslavian filmmaker Dusan Makavejev was there. At the end of the reception, he was sitting at a table with Makavejev and a few other critics when I came over to say my goodbyes. He not only invited me to sit down with them but introduced me to Makavejev by saying that not only was I an excellent critic, I was one of the very few critics that he knew of that was qualified to review one of his movies. That was maybe a decade ago and I am still giddy over that.
Now he is gone and while I have hardly begun to process any of this, I know that the loss of him, both personally and professionally, is incalculable. There are only two positives to this that immediately come to mind. The first is that the suffering that must have taken an enormous toll on him over the last few years has finally come to an end. The second is the mild comfort that can be taken in the fact that he influenced and inspired so many generations of critics, filmmakers and moviegoers over the years that his legacy will continue to grow for a long time into the future.
I offer my deepest condolences to Chaz and the members of his personal and professional families. And while I subscribe to no fixed notions in regards to the existence of an afterlife or whatnot, I know that if there is such a place, I can only hope that they have one hell of a screening room and that 3-D is nowhere to be seen.
And now, off to give the DVD of "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" a spin. . .
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