THE GREAT MOVIES II
Next month, film critics and partners Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper will each release books of their own. A little friendly competition never hurt anyone, right?
At times, Ebert's second collection of 100 essays on great (but not, he's careful to point out, the greatest) movies reads like an anthology of recycled reviews from his Chicago Sun-Times column, especially when he gets talking about the bonus features on DVDs. But anyone looking for a crash course in cinema viewing—regardless of whether they've been through Ebert's first Great Movies collection (published in 2002)—will find plenty of rewards here. Some of the selections may be obvious (12 Angry Men ; West Side Story ), but Ebert constantly surprises, not just in the foreign film selections but in the elevation of cult favorites such as the "bizarre masterpiece" Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia . In praising older films, Ebert often takes the opportunity to criticize modern Hollywood, and his attacks can get snarky (for example, is it really unthinkable that Annie Hall would beat out Star Wars for an Oscar if they came out today?). Given Ebert's preferences, it's not surprising that fewer than a dozen American movies from the last two decades make the cut. Some of his choices are sure to spark debate; two Japanese cartoons, for example, may strike some as excessive, especially since the treatment of live-action Japanese directors barely extends past Kurosawa. Then again, it's hard to imagine a better purpose for such an anthology than getting people talking about—and watching—movies. 100 b&w photos. (Feb. 1)