Continuing the pitch-perfect critiques begun in The Great Movies, Roger Ebert's The Great Movies II collects 100 additional essays, each one of them a gem of critical appreciation and an amalgam of love, analysis, and history that will send readers back to films with a fresh set of eyes and renewed enthusiasm--or perhaps to an avid first-time viewing. Neither a snob nor a shill, Ebert manages in these essays to combine a truly populist appreciation for today's most important form of popular art with a scholar's erudition and depth of knowledge and a sure aesthetic sense. Once again wonderfully enhanced by stills selected by Mary Corliss, former film curator at the Museum of Modern Art, The Great Movies II is a treasure trove for film lovers of all persuasions, an unrivaled guide for viewers, and a book to return to again and again.
At times, Ebert's second collection of 100 essays on great (but not, he's careful to point out, the greatest) movies reads like an anthology of recycled reviews from his Chicago Sun-Times column, especially when he gets talking about the bonus features on DVDs. But anyone looking for a crash course in cinema viewing--regardless of whether they've been through Ebert's first Great Movies collection (published in 2002)--will find plenty of rewards here. Some of the selections may be obvious (12 Angry Men; West Side Story), but Ebert constantly surprises, not just in the foreign film selections but in the elevation of cult favorites such as the "bizarre masterpiece" Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. In praising older films, Ebert often takes the opportunity to criticize modern Hollywood, and his attacks can get snarky (for example, is it really unthinkable that Annie Hall would beat out Star Wars for an Oscar if they came out today?). Given Ebert's preferences, it's not surprising that fewer than a dozen American movies from the last two decades make the cut. Some of his choices are sure to spark debate; two Japanese cartoons, for example, may strike some as excessive, especially since the treatment of live-action Japanese directors barely extends past Kurosawa. Then again, it's hard to imagine a better purpose for such an anthology than getting people talking about--and watching--movies. 100 b&w photos. (Feb. 1)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
February 13, 2006
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from The Great Movies II by Roger Ebert
12 Angry Men In form,12 Angry Menis a courtroom drama. In purpose, it's a crash course in those passages of the Constitution that promise defendants a fair trial and the presumption of innocence. It has a kind of stark simplicity: Apart from a brief setup and a briefer epilogue, the entire film takes place within a small New York City jury room, on "the hottest day of the year," as twelve men debate the fate of a young defendant charged with murdering his father. The film shows us nothing of the trial itself except for the judge's perfunctory, almost bored, charge to the jury. His tone of voice indicates that the verdict is a foregone conclusion. We hear neither prosecutor nor defense attorney, and learn of the evidence only secondhand, as the jurors debate it. Most courtroom movies feel it necessary to end with a clear-cut verdict. But12 Angry Mennever states whether the defendant is innocent or guilty. It is about whether the jury has a reasonable doubt about his guilt. The principle of reasonable doubt, the belief that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty, is one of the most enlightened elements of our Constitution, although many Americans have had difficulty in accepting it. "It's an open-and-shut case," snaps Juror No. 3 (Lee J. Cobb) as the jury first gathers in their claustrophobic little room. When the first ballot is taken, ten of his fellow jurors agree, and there is only one holdout—Juror No. 8 (Henry Fonda). This is a film where tension comes from personality conflict, dialogue, and body language, not action; where the defendant has been glimpsed only in a single brief shot; where logic, emotion, and prejudice struggle to control the field. It is a masterpiece of stylized realism—the style coming in the way the photography and editing comment on the bare bones of the content. Released in 1957, when Technicolor and lush production values were common,12 Angry Menwas lean and mean. It got ecstatic reviews and a spread inLifemagazine but was a disappointment at the box office. Over the years it has found a constituency, however, and in a 2002 Internet Movie Database poll it was listed twenty-third among the best films of all time. The story, based on a television play by Reginald Rose, was made into a movie by Sidney Lumet, with Rose and Henry Fonda acting as coproducers and putting up their own money to finance it. It was Lumet's first feature, although he was much experienced in TV drama, and the cinematography was by the veteran Boris Kaufman, whose credits (On the Waterfront,Long Day's Journey into Night) show a skill for tightening the tension in dialogue exchanges. The cast included only one bankable star, Fonda, but the other eleven actors were among the best then working in New York, including Martin Balsam, Lee J. Cobb, E. G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, Ed Begley, and Robert Webber. They smoke, they sweat, they swear, they sprawl, they stalk, they get angry. In a length of only ninety-five minutes (it sometimes feels as if the movie is shot in real time), the jurors are all defined in terms of their personalities, backgrounds, occupations, prejudices, and emotional tilts. Evidence is debated so completely that we feel we know as much as the jury does, especially about the old man who says he heard the murder and saw the defendant fleeing, and the lady across the street who says she saw it happen through the windows of a moving El train. We see the murder weapon, a switchblade knife, and hear the jurors debate the angle of the knife wound. We watch as Fonda imitates the shuffling step of the old man, a stroke victim, to see if he could have gotten to the door in time to see the murderer fleeing. In its ingenuity, in the way it balances one piece of evidence against another that seems contradictory,12 Angry Menis as meticulous as the summation of an Agatha Christie thril