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Roger Ebert laments the sudden death of film

I'm a huge Roger Ebert fan. That might sound lame, but I've found that he and I more-or-less agree with his opinions on films. That's why I have difficulty deciding whether this recent post on his blog is a heartfelt love letter for simpler times or the death knell of a film dinosaur.

This post originally appeared on Stuff Smart People Like. Subscribe to the Podcast.


  1. His last point seems a curious one, as if digital films are kind of carelessly being thrown on obsolete formats and left to die.

    I can understand his nostalgia, and the struggle with old versus new forms. As a book lover, I see the same kind of struggle between print and digital mediums, where one is simply cheaper to distribute for publishers and easier to preserve for consumers. I really didn't want to, but I had to accept that I need to get comfortable reading on a screen. Yes, people are going to try to preserve old mediums, but markets will gravitate towards the winners of cost-benefit analysis. I don't want to be the person that finds reading on-screen intolerable, because it would be a challenge for my future profession and could make my reading of newer literature more difficult.

    The question for me is what we're gaining or losing. I half thought Ebert would gripe against the formulaic "blockbuster" films, but he seemed to settle with those a long time ago (and I know he's aware that films have been "formulaic" for a long, long time). Are the films losing quality? It seems Ebert likes the communal experience of film watching as much as anything, which is certainly achievable with digital. With my example of books, are stories losing quality? Nope, but once again it's the physical interaction with them that's changing (I like to write in my books, for instance). I think if we want to lessen the regret or unhappiness we have with these kinds of changes, we'd do well to try to anticipate which things will last, and which won't be around forever. Then, at least we can be prepared for it.

  2. Yeah, I don't buy the argument that previous formats didn't last and that's why we're losing films. Seems just as likely to me that in the future someone might discover an old file on a computer that happens to contain an alternate ending to, say, Inception.

    I think he's getting old and just pining for the way things used to be. He tends to have his crusades. Mostly recently he's been a strong opponent of 3D films, citing it as only a gimmick. However, I think he was okay with its use in Avatar.

    I also agree that the communal nature of the movies is what he seems to be pimping the most in this post and that, aside maybe from the rising costs of tickets (even though I think that has nothing to do with the cost of digital film projectors), digital is not stopping anyone from going to the movies.