Legendary film critic Roger Ebert died of cancer yesterday at age 70. For almost half a century, Ebert's sharp assessments and lovable humor guided America's film audiences, through his post as film critic at the Chicago Sun-Times, his TV shows with Gene Siskel (and later, Richard Roeper), and his film festival, Ebertfest. In an era when movie critics often struggle to outthink and overintellectualize, Ebert kept it real, praising deserving lowbrow flicks alongside great classics.
That's especially apparent in his reviews of movies set in Miami, which range from the iconic (Scarface) to the absurd (2 Fast 2 Furious). Whether he loved them or hated them, his explanations, descriptions, and critiques showcase Ebert's unique blend of everyman film sensibility paired with a genius talent for the written word. Here are a few of our favorites.
"The Tony Montana character is above all a performance artist, a man who exists in order to gloriously be himself. From the film's opening shots, in which he is one more disposable Cuban ex-con in a Florida detention center, his whole drive is to impress his personality and will on others. He begins with no resources or weapons, except for his bravado, and fakes out more powerful men simply by seeming dangerous and resourceful. His act is a bluff, so there is no sense in underplaying it." (Sept. 28, 2003)
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
"The movie basically has one joke, which is Ace Ventura's weird nerdy strangeness. If you laugh at this joke, chances are you laugh at Jerry Lewis, too, and I can sympathize with you even if I can't understand you. I found the movie a long, unfunny slog through an impenetrable plot. Kids might like it. Real little kids." (Feb. 4, 1994)
"This movie is so good-looking it deserves a decent screenplay, instead of one more lope down memory lane. The movie gives us a Miami filled with midnight glitz, shot with the flair of a fashion photographer - backlit monochrome tilt shots and all. It has relentless editing, slick action sequences, and blows up stuff real good.
But what is it about? Two cops. Buddies. Partners. Narcs. ... The plot is like a jigsaw puzzle with pieces supplied by 48 HRS, Internal Affairs, Beverly Hills Cop and Lethal Weapon." (April 7, 1995)
"Now comes the remake of the most seductive target, the comedy "La Cage aux Folles" (1978), which is about a gay man whose son wants him to play it straight for a few days. All of this will be familiar if you've seen the original, or the two sequels, or the Broadway version. ... What makes Mike Nichols' version more than just a retread is good casting in the key roles, and a wicked screenplay by Elaine May, who keeps the original story but adds little zingers here and there ("Live on Fisher Island and get buried in Palm Beach - that way you'll get the best of Florida!")." (March 8, 1996)
There's Something About Mary
"I love it when a movie takes control, sweeps away my doubts and objections, and compels me to laugh. I'm having a physical reaction, not an intellectual one. There's such freedom in laughing so loudly. I feel cleansed." (July 15, 1998)
2 Fast 2 Furious
"Consider that the big climax involves a Miami druglord who hires two street racers to pick up bags full of money in North Beach and deliver them in the Keys, and adds, "You make it, I'll personally hand you $100 Gs at the finish line." Hell, for 10 Gs, I'd rent a van at the Aventura Mall and deliver the goods myself." (June 6, 2003)
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Step Up Revolution
"[The story] depends on all of the members of the Mob being immortal and stuck in a moment of time. They are staging their protests because the development would go up right where they like to hang out. Bwaa-bwaa! There's even the colorful restaurant run by a kindly old guy who is usually called Pop in these stories, although I missed his name this time. ... That's why they'll have to be immortal. Because they assume that Pop's, and their favorite little shops for pants and shoes, will be there forever -- and so will they. But consider how tragic it would be if Emily, Sean, Pop and the gang were all still there in 50 years, still popping up by surprise to dance on cars. We'd really need health care then. No, it is the way of the world that people grow up and move along, and we cannot destroy the plans of developers merely to preserve kids' precious hangouts, although if it involves Donald Trump, it might be OK." (July 25, 2012)
Follow Ciara LaVelle on Twitter @ciaralavelle.