I can't recommend Roger & Chaz by Hank Sartin enough. It's beautiful to read.
I also really appreciated Thank you for smoking that Roger Ebert recently added to his blog. In fact, I appreciate most things he posts there.
I wrote an appreciation after Gene Siskel died that I wish I still had in some form. In it, I noted the importance of Sneak Previews had been in my development. It was amazing to me in my little suburban world to see two intelligent well-spoken guys who talked about movies in the way I thought about them.
It was also through that show, and those that followed, that I learned the purpose of a critic. It's not to inform you what is and isn't good. It really isn't.
Whenever someone says, "I don't like Critic X because he liked/didn't like this movie," my first thought... Well, my first thought is that they're a frickin' idiot, quite frankly, but now that I'm older my better nature usually snaps into place pretty quickly, and I realize they're experience and opinions are merely different than mine and all that good stuff. I do always remain unimpressed.
I read a lot of movie opinions on a regular basis, and I've read tons and tons more in days past. I have a whole group of bloggers I read, as should be obvious, as well as professional critics, and professional critics who blog, that I feed myself on a regular basis. Do I agree with even one on all things? Nope.
I'm not even sure how many of them I agree with most of the time. Certainly a few, but not nearly enough to be interesting. I suppose I do err on the side of people who tend be interested in the same kinds of movies as me, which may not be stretching myself as far as I'm capable, but I'm old and rigid. Leave me alone.
I do still believe that the point of reading and hearing criticism, and other kinds of opinion, is to keep yourself sharp. Not all experiences are definitive. Sometimes you can learn to appreciate the qualities of things you didn't before or recognize failing in things you admire.
Here, again, the polarized society in which the politics of the flaw seems designed to keep us all from thinking clearly leaks into our art appreciation. One doesn't have to see a work of art as without flaws in order to appreciate it, or even appreciate it as great, anymore than the flaws of the great figures in history make their accomplishments less valid or important... In fact, in both cases, it probably makes them moreso. A person who overcomes enormous failings to accomplish great things seems, to my mind, to have done something more difficult and, as such, greater than someone who merely stepped up and done it without effort.
By the same token, I'm not sure there isn't something more compelling and greater about a movie that's so great in some ways that members of it audience either don't notice or don't care about their flaws and eagerly accept their greatness. That's fabulous!
What I enjoy about Ebert now is what I enjoyed then, it's how he goes about telling me about movies and his experience. It's both endearingly casual, like a guy at the bar turning to you and answering how he thought of a movie, but also educated and intelligent. It's neither a rambling nor a lecture. It feels like part of a conversation, which is, I suppose, part of what makes the Answer Man column particularly appealing, as it brings the reader into the conversation, as he already feels.
So, reading Ebert's opinions is a standard part of my process of thinking about a movie. It's not that I agree with all that he says... or necessarily even most of it. I do, however, find what he says interesting and worthy of consideration.
But mostly it's just entertaining to read.
I enjoy his writing and respect his opinions, and the fact that he liked Tomb Raider just can't change that.