Roger Ebert Praises Cosmoetica And My Film Criticism

A bizarre turn of events in the last few days. Back in 2007 I tried for months to get film critic Roger Ebert to be interviewed for my then new interview series. He was one of the top 5 or so names that I wanted, along with Steven Pinker, Charles Johnson, and Desmond Morris (whom I got) and Woody Allen and Werner Herzog (whom I've not- although Herzog remains a possibility).

For months I emailed Ebert at his newspaper, as well as his tv show. I even called the paper twice, and may have even left a voicemail. I then even tried to look up his booking/speaking agent. But, not a nibble. Of course, he had major medical problems then, so that would have likely factored into things.

Then, last night, I get this email from this nutty fan (who used to cyberstalk me back in the days I went to poetry readings in the Twin Cities) stating that a letter he wrote to Ebert, about me- or rather my opinions about Ebert's opinions- had somehow become the subject of a long column by Ebert, himself.

About a month ago I got an email from said person, who told me he had just done the deed, but knowing the fellow as being unstable (I'm being VERY generous), and not having heard from him in 5 or 6 years, I figured it was BS. Add to that the fact that my own entreaties, several years ago had gotten me nowhere, and I laughed it all off as a delusion that he'd even get a personal reply, much less that Ebert would actually think favorably of my website and opinions.

Without going into the grim details, this person seems to have spent the better part of his life in and out of 'happy farms,' but is a good representation of what I've long said: that the line between some of my more obsessive fans and those of delusional cyberstalkers of my site is very thin. He's not the first hater to become a fan of mine, and who knows what near death experiences or drug therapies may have contributed to his turn in my favor? But it certainly is ironic that one of the many, many delusional idiot cyberstalker types that I've had over the years actually, in the long run, ends up doing me a favor- bigger than pieces on me that ran online, in City Pages, or in the New York Times have done.

All of this also comes at a very busy time of the year for me, as this is the busiest season at work. But, I will send Roger Ebert a personal thank you in a day or two, once things calm down a bit, and in time to be read by him on Monday morning, as well as ask him a couple of other things (barring I am not so tired I fall asleep when I get home).

So, thanks to Mr. Ebert, thanks to the vagaries of psychosis, and let me end this post with Ebert's specific comments:

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a friend have been debating about my qualities as a film critic, and they've involved a considerable critic, Dan Schneider, in their discussion. I will say that he (Ebert means me) has given the question a surprising amount of thought and attention over the years, and may well be correct in some aspects. What his analysis gives me is a renewed respect and curiosity about his own work....

(then a very lengthy and rambling email- with links, photos, and quotes by me and Ebert- follows, and the piece ends with this)

I suggest you buy one of those big T-bones and share it.

Dan Schneider is observant, smart, and makes every effort to be fair. I would agree that I am a more emotion-driven critic than Siskel or Schneider, and indeed many others. My reviews usually include a reflection of how I felt during a film, since film itself is primarily an emotional, not a cerebral, medium. For example, although like most everybody I found "Triumph of the Will" evil, I also lingered on how boring it was. If you're not comfortable sitting through a film, what can you easily get from it?

I must say I still agree with my opinions as quoted by Schneider, and I conclude he is more analytical and less visceral that I am. Readers find critics who speak to them. What is remarkable about these many words is that Schneider keeps an open mind, approaches each film afresh, and doesn't always repeat the same judgments. An ideal critic tries to start over again with every review.

There are three things on which we adamantly disagree. (1) I do not have a broader film knowledge than Donald Richie, and Schneider may be the only person who has ever thought so. (2) I disagree with his dismissal of Spielberg. The man who made "E.T." is not a schlockmeister purveying tripe. (3) The third is Ingrid Bergman, and my "burblings" about her lips. A critic who doesn't acknowledge the role of her face and presence in a "Casablanca" will, I fear, date just about anybody. Our critical differences I leave to you. I invite you to continue your discussion in the Comments below.

In the matter of Ingrid Bergman, I offer the final word to Miss Bergman.

A final note, I had never even heard of this Armond White critical clown until this all came up, but in looking over some of his film reviews (and I agree- he's a contrarian with political and personal axes to grind), he reminds me of this homeless fellow who wrote for alternative newspapers in the Twin Cities. His writings were also borderline paranoid and incoherent, and- surprise, surprise- he obsessed over me to the point where I had to go to court and get a restraining order on him because, like the initial emailer, he was a former mental patient. (And, no, I'm not claiming White's a nutcase, just that his writing and critical faculties devolve down to that level.)

Ah, mental illness, who knows what wonders it hath wrought?

Again, thanks to Ebert, but really, Roger, that photo of Ingrid- cheap shot, baby, but maybe it was a winner, after all! ;-)