I've read lots of arguments over whether Roger Ebert deserves his title of American critic-laureate. In my opinion, it needn't be a matter of which films he likes or dislikes -- almost anytime I wind up reading his reviews, his writing alone is enough to damn him. Here are some excerpts from his review of a film I recently saw for the first time on the recommendation of my oral surgeon, 1983's The Hunger. The fact that I adored the movie and Ebert considered it "agonizingly bad" is secondary to his incredibly leaden, hackneyed self-expression:
"After an initial orgy of fancy camerawork, the movie settles down into the story of Bowie's final days. He has that disease, where you age suddenly."
"Then Sarandon visits the lavish town house where Deneuve and Bowie lived, and that's where a glass of sherry leads to the seduction scene. Now I've got to be honest about this scene. Part of its interest lies in the fact that Catherine Deneuve herself and Susan Sarandon herself are acting in the scene. That gives it a level of reality that would be lacking in a porno film, even a much more explicit one."
"Sarandon's scene by the window in Atlantic City, bathing herself with lemons, created great sultriness."
"There's so much crosscutting, so many memories, so many apparent flashbacks, that the real drama is lost -- the drama of a living human being seduced into vampirism. In Herzog's Nosferatu we felt some of the blood-scented lure of eternal death-in-life. Here it's just -- how would an ad put it? -- 'Catherine Deneuve for Dracula.'"
I don't really understand much of what Ebert's saying here, although it appears that he celebrated his editor's day off by skimming The Hunger for moments of "great sultriness." As one observant friend put it, "That's some Borat shit, right there."