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Devils Lake Journal - Devils Lake, ND
  • Despite health problems, Roger Ebert still has a voice

  • I like to think of film critic Roger Ebert as a sieve. When Hollywood releases a film, it's probably going to go through him. And after taking in a flick and sharing his thoughts, his readers are left with just the stuff that they can use - a solid opinion, a little humor, an idea of whether or not they'll be wanting to shell out their money to take a look themselves.

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  • I like to think of film critic Roger Ebert as a sieve.
    When Hollywood releases a film, it's probably going to go through him. And after taking in a flick and sharing his thoughts, his readers are left with just the stuff that they can use - a solid opinion, a little humor, an idea of whether or not they'll be wanting to shell out their money to take a look themselves.
    At 67, Ebert is dealing with health problems that might devastate someone with less heart. He lost his ability to speak almost four years ago after undergoing a tracheostomy - a procedure that opens an airway through an incision in the windpipe - after surgery for cancer in his jaw.
    Ebert also has lost his ability to eat and drink. He wrote all about his cravings for root beer, cheap candy and Steak N Shake in a January blog post. But he said he missed the experience of dining more than the eating.
    "The food and drink I can do without easily. The jokes, gossip, laughs, arguments and shared memories I miss. Sentences beginning with the words, 'Remember that time?'"
    Ebert now uses text-to-speech computer software to communicate, and sometimes that trusty combination of pen and paper.
    It's a good thing, because many readers still depend on his voice. Ebert reviews several films a week, in addition to posting celebrity interviews, DVD reviews, answering reader questions, posting blog entries and more. He recently agreed to a short e-mail interview with the Journal Star. 
    I've heard that you have a personal theater in your home and that studios simply pipe you films to review. What is your theater like?
    We have a video viewing room, but the studios surely don't pipe me films. Those I see in theaters, screening rooms, film festivals, or occasionally via DVD in the screening room. In our room, we have 14 theater chairs, an overhead projector, a large screen, and THX Surround.
    If you could go back in time and spend a day with any movie star or director, who would you choose?
    Buster Keaton or Orson Welles. I'd say Hitchcock, but I did meet him and I'm not sure he would be good company.
    What is the first movie you saw in the theater, and what was your opinion of it at that time?
    "A Day at the Races," with the Marx Brothers. I thought it was the best film I'd ever seen!
    You review everything - indie films, art films, foreign films, documentaries - and not just the blockbusters. Why does such a small percentage of the population appreciate the little guys?
    The majority of people live where such movies never seem to play. But that is changing with Video on Demand and Netflix Instant Streaming, and they are more widely accessible.
    Page 2 of 2 - Which film do you think deserves best picture at this year's Academy Awards? And, which film do you think will win best picture at this year's Academy Awards?
    1. The Hurt Locker
    2. The Hurt Locker
    So many papers are cutting coverage of local movie criticism. In this age, do critics matter?
    More than ever. We are being drowned in a sea of celebrity gossip and hype. The reader needs someone to read who is not a tool of the publicity machine.
    Roger Ebert is the film critic of the Chicago-Sun Times. He is the author of more than 15 books, including the 2002 best-seller "The Great Movies."
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