He Didn’t Care for “Superman Returns”

Just the other day, Roger Ebert announced the formation of Ebert Digital, a new venture “devoted to the creation of new digital products that build on the lifelong work of the world’s preeminent film critic.” This was planned to include a newly formatted RogerEbert.com, where the man himself would serve as editor, nurturing a handpicked slew of reviewers.

Since that announcement, the contact information for this project has been displayed in a tab on my browser. It’s there, waiting for me to use it.

I’m in a constant state of hesitation; would I get a response? If so, from who? And what will they say? I’d like to think that my writing is good enough… A couple of deep breaths are needed here. It’s just an email. Sure, it’s a big deal, asking to take part in a website run by the king of your craft, but it’s not the end of the world if nothing comes of it.

After all, this is the guy that didn’t like Superman Returns.

When I watched the Bryan Singer Superman film at my local theater’s midnight showing, I was over the moon with pure joy. Getting to see a character I had long related to finish an arc that had been started with two movies from decades ago, sent chills down my spine. I wrote a review where I said that “Superman represents the best in all of us, and all we can become” or something to that effect. I sent it in an email to the editor of a local paper, hoping to land a gig out of the blue. A lot of effort was put into that review, and I don’t believe I heard back.

This was a depressing time in my life; out of school, unemployed, crushed by a crush, etc. Luckily, I had on DVD the complete box set for The Critic to get me through. As a kid, I looked up to Jay Sherman (the cartoon critic), and thought that doing what he did would be a dream. In one episode, I was introduced to Siskel and Ebert. At first, I thought they were just characters, but I soon realized they were as real as that moustached afro guy from The Today Show (Gene Shalit).

This can be a real career? Seriously? I had kicked around many fantasies for work throughout the years (from Astronaut to Superman himself), but I always kept coming back to film criticism. It’s hard to describe, but it just fit with my sarcastic, observational and analytical nature. My cousins would even refer to me as Siskel simply because I would comment on the details of a movie we’d be watching. Maybe I should make a go of this…

…but what did Mr. Ebert think of Superman Returns? 2/4 *s.

He wrote “This is a glum, lackluster movie in which even the big effects sequences seem dutiful instead of exhilarating” and “when the hero, his alter ego, his girlfriend and the villain all seem to lack any joy in being themselves, why should we feel joy at watching them?”

Whoa, I thought. How could this be? This is the man that enjoyed 1 and 2 as much as I did — HE SHOULD HAVE LIKED THIS MOVIE TOO! I spent a good amount of time, sitting at my desk, thinking hard on this.

I read through my review, feeling like I got my point across. Then, I reread his, this time with a clearer mind. And I realized something; my view wasn’t as fully realized as his was. What I wrote was, more or less, just gushing about a character in general, no matter the movie surrounding him. What Ebert wrote was a descriptive and well elaborated expression of what he felt about the movie as a whole. He used examples from previous versions of the story. He provided observations that were spot on. And he didn’t let his fanboy-ness take over.

No wonder the editor of that local paper didn’t get back to me.

So, I spent the next couple of years going from dead end job to dead end job, reading as many reviews by as many critics as possible. How were other people writing about movies, and what could I do to better myself? After much prodding from my mom, friends and eventually myself, I started up this blog.

And here I am. My browser still has a tab open with Ebert Digital contact information. My gmail inbox is open, waiting on me to compose a message. If I had written something just a little earlier, I would’ve thanked Mr. Ebert for giving me the motivation to be a critic. For helping me understand how I could come up with a style that was effective and very much mine. And, like how Superman made us believe a man could fly, that he made me believe a pale, OCD kid could turn his wide eyed love of watching and talking about movies into a career.

I’d like to imagine at least an auto response would’ve appeared after hitting refresh.

“Oh, my…” — Captain James T. Kirk, Star Trek: Generations

Originally published at billreviewsfilm.blogspot.com on April 5, 2013.

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