Every week, I will shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.
I am breaking formula with the 3 Great Stories segment this week in a few ways.
One: Only one of the three stories was published this week.
Two: Every story was written by the same person.
Three: That person is no longer alive.
I loved Roger Ebert for the same reasons most did: he reviewed movies in an accessible way, and he authored reviews that stood out on their own merit as great writing. I decided to honor his passing by posting three of my favorite Ebert pieces. Only one, by the way, is a movie review.
Casablanca (9/15/96, Chicago Sun-Times): Casablanca may be my favorite movie of all-time. Ebert’s review of Casablanca may be my favorite movie review of all-time.
(Truth be told: I really do not keep track of movie reviews. I only remember maybe a handful I have read. This is one.)
This review is unique in that it was written in retrospect; Ebert wrote the piece more than a half-century after Casablanca premiered. As such, he writes about the movie in an atypically analytical way; he clearly has watched the movie numerous times, and he breaks down scenes and performances on a much grander scale.
I simply love his use of language here. Ebert refers to the film’s plot as “a trifle to hang the emotions on”; he says the movie “plays more like a musical album”. He writes with affection about a classic film, and as a result he authors a classic review.