Top 10 Roger Ebert Rock Movie Reviews
The entertainment world was saddened yesterday (April 4) when news came down that film critic Roger Ebert died at the age of 70 following a long struggle with cancer. His death came one day after his 46th anniversary as the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times.
For those of us who write about the art that moves us, Ebert was incredibly influential. He combined a fan’s love with the knowledge and insight of a professor and saw no inherent superiority of one genre over another. A film was, on its own terms, either good or bad — or, to use the term he popularized with his late sparring partner Gene Siskel, thumbs up or thumbs down.
To honor Ebert, we’ve compiled his reviews of some of our favorite rock movies, ranging from fictional to documentaries to concert films. Even if you don’t agree with him — some of these are negative reviews — Ebert’s opinions were always incredibly well-written and backed with reason. Here is our list of the Top 10 Roger Ebert Rock Movie Reviews.
‘The Last Waltz’
“The overall tenor of the documentary suggests survivors at the ends of their ropes. They dress in dark, cheerless clothes, hide behind beards, hats and shades, pound out rote performances of old hits, don’t seem to smile much at their music or each other…[T]he overall sense of the film is of good riddance to a bad time…Yet I give it three stars? Yes, because the film is such a revealing document of a time.”
“The music is very powerful. It’s a driving force, and the way that [David] Byrne and his backup singers throw themselves into the physical side of the performance is absolutely exhilarating….The light and shadow shows are coordinated so well with the music, this becomes not just a music film, but a real theatrical event.”
“I would have liked to know more about Mick Jagger; how does it feel for an educated, literate, civilized man in his early forties, with a head for figures and a gift for contracts and negotiations, to strut with a codpiece before tens of thousands of screaming, drug-crazed fans?…At the beginning of the film I was caught up in the Stones’ waves of sound energy, and fascinated by Jagger’s exhilarating, limitless onstage energy. By the end of the film I was simply stunned, and not even ‘(Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ could quite rouse me.”
‘Dazed and Confused’
“The years between 13 and 18 are among the most agonizing in a lifetime, yet we remember them with a nostalgia that blocks out much of the pain. This is a truth well understood by ‘Dazed and Confused,’ Richard Linklater’s film about the last day of school and the long night that follows it. The film is art crossed with anthropology. It tells the painful underside of ‘American Graffiti.’…This is a good film, but it would not cheer people up much at a high school reunion.”
“One of the problems with this film for me was that U2 is a politically oriented group whose lyrics mean something, and in this movie, I couldn’t hear what they were saying most of the time…Not being able to see was the other. The film is pretty badly photographed, at night, with bad lighting conditions, and with cameramen who seem to be in love with shooting at guys who are standing in front of lights so you can only see their silhouettes.”
“The remarkable thing about Wadleigh’s film is that it succeeds so completely in making us feel how it must have been to be there…’Woodstock’ is a beautiful, complete, moving, ultimately great film, and years from now when our generation is attacked for being just as uptight as all the rest of the generations, it will be good to have this movie around to show that, just for a weekend anyway, that wasn’t altogether the case.”
“The rock group does not really exist, but the best thing about this film is that it could. The music, the staging, the special effects, the backstage feuding and the pseudo-profound philosophizing are right out of a hundred other rock groups and a dozen other documentaries about rock… It simply, slyly, destroys one level of rock pomposity after another.”
“Oh, what a lovely film. I was almost hugging myself while I watched it…It’s as if Huckleberry Finn came back to life in the 1970s, and instead of taking a raft down the Mississippi, got on the bus with the band…’Almost Famous’ is about the world of rock, but it’s not a rock film, it’s a coming-of-age film, about an idealistic kid who sees the real world, witnesses its cruelties and heartbreaks, and yet finds much room for hope. “
“[Dylan] is immature, petty, vindictive, lacking a sense of humor, overly impressed with his own importance and not very bright…Dylan’s songs give a deeper, more honest impression of their author. And I don’t think this movie should detract from them. When Dylan sings, he has hold of something precious. It is only his pathetic private life, as he has revealed it in this film, that should be dismissed or regretted.”
“I remember I walked into the theater. I had a short hair cut. I was dressed kind of ‘fraternity-boy’ style, and I came out with my idea about how to carry and express myself really influenced. I started to let my hair grow – while I was watching that movie, my hair started to grow…I’ve seen ‘A Hard Day’s Night at least 25 times, and on at least five occasions, I’ve taught it to film classes one shot at a time.”