The film critic Roger Ebert originally published this piece in 1992 after celebrating his 25th year as a movie critic for the Chicago-Sun Times. He passed away in April 2013.
The job of a movie critic is unusual. Instead of spending your time at the office or even at home penning away your novel in ample lighting, you watch 2-3 movies a day. You get “up in the morning and in two hours it is dark again, and the passage of time is fractured by editing and dissolves and flashbacks and jump cuts.”
While the job of movie reviews may be lonely, the purpose of a film and for those critiquing it is quite the opposite. Ebert writes that “the single most important factor in learning to be literate about movies is to be part of an audience that is sophisticated about them.”
Perhaps the most interesting part of Ebert's reflections though are his assessment of watching film in color versus black and white, the latter which he says “creates a mysterious dream state, a simpler world of form and gesture.” Color is too “realistic, distracting.” I think the same can be said of photographs. Strip away the filters, and all the focus is on the texture.
“Most people do not agree with me. They like color and think a black-and-white film is missing something. Try this. If you have wedding photographs of your parents and grandparents, chances are your parents are in color and your grandparents are in black and white. Put the two photographs side by side and consider them honestly. Your grandparents look timeless. Your parents look goofy.”
Are celebrities that much better than you? Or did they prepare and hit their luck at the right time, playing best when their best needed.
There may not be much that separates your skills from the celebrity, other than that they succeeded and you didn’t.
But the gap widens once they’re in. Their coaches, their network, their fan following, goes beyond any services a layman could afford.
Your blown away by celebrity status, so far behind and disconnected it’s unlikely that your chance will ever come. But maybe being famous isn’t even your goal. You like to produce in anonymity. You enjoy the practice for what it is.
Fame isn’t the goal of creativity. Fame tries to capitalize on good effort so it can let marketing do the rest. The pleasure in doing anything is in the performance, minus the expectations, otherwise we’re just fighting within ourselves to impress other people.
Being one is fun. But really the only difference between celebrities and the rest of us are impressions and power.
TV already edits their flaws, while they portray the perfect life to their millions of followers on Instagram and Twitter. Celebrities also carry with them huge clout – they can dictate their fans and drive them to just about anywhere to buy and share their product. Meanwhile, the anonymous virtually share themselves.
Celebrities are praised because of the scarce skill they offer. And rightfully so. Their relevancy depends on repeating success again and again. That pressure alone is respectable.
Beyond fame, celebs are ordinary people and face the same issues as we do. They get sick, have family issues, and have to pay the bills.
I’m not convinced a celebrity’s life is that much better than ours. They have more pressure to paint a life of desire while the rest of us accept the life we have. The meek shall inherit the Earth, or so they say.
“It's the therapy of moviemaking that has been good in my life. If you don't work, it's unhealthy – for me, particularly unhealthy. I could sit here suffering from morbid introspection, ruing my mortality, being anxious. But it's very therapeutic to get up and think, Can I get this actor; does my third act work? All these solvable problems that are delightful puzzles, as opposed to the great puzzles of life that are unsolvable, or that have very bad solutions.” – Woody Allen
“The scary part about the 21st century at least as far as the arts are concerned is that it has all become entirely too artificially intelligent. Certainly you feel that when you look at what is coming out of Hollywood, it often seems designed and programmed by robots in a way that doesn’t communicate to my kind of human.” – Andrew Bujalski
Hollywood is now just a data dump, making movies on raw numbers and projections rather than emotion and meaning. Acting is faking, after all.