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.”