A decided non-April Foolish treat for Roger Ebert fans today, courtesy of RogerEbert.com editor Matt Zoller Seitz. To commemorate the second anniversary of Ebert’s death on April 4, 2013, Seitz has picked out 13 of Ebert’s best reviews — one for every open slot on the site’s homepage — and annotated each with his own commentary. The selections run from Ebert’s first review to one of his last, his most famous raves to one of his most infamous pans, highlighting his penchant for championing underdogs and defending the unappreciated. Here’s Seitz on Ebert on “Do the Right Thing“:
Justly regarded as one of Roger’s best and most significant reviews, this one spoke up loudly and passionately on behalf of Spike Lee’s race-tinged urban drama, praising it as a complex and worthy work of personal art at a time when many mainstream media outlets seemed mainly worried about whether it was racist or reverse-racist (it wasn’t) or might spark riots in theaters (it didn’t). What registers most strongly today is Roger’s insistence that Lee be given the same latitude afforded to any “serious” White director, to work through his conflicted and contradictory feelings on a subject throughout the course of a movie’s running time without being knee-jerk condemned for not being 100% laser-focused on delivering a single message. “Of course it is confused,” he wrote. “Of course it wavers between middle-class values and street values. Of course it is not sure whether it believes in liberal pieties or militancy. Of course some of the characters are sympathetic and others are hateful. And of course some of the likable characters do bad things. Isn’t that the way it is in America today? Anyone who walks into this film expecting answers is a dreamer or a fool. But anyone who leaves the movie with more intolerance than they walked in with wasn’t paying attention.“
Here’s the full list.