Roger Ebert's Journal: Archives
This is a beautiful piece of writing.
Background: Ebert hated Transformers 2. No surprise there. By all accounts the movie was directed by Michael Bay who professionally makes shit movies. But fans of the film came out of the woodwork to tell Ebert he was wrong. Specifically, they accused him of being intellectual, of over-thinking, of being a liberal, of being elitist, of being out-of-touch, of having seen too many movies, etc. It's the worst kind of American anti-intellectualism on parade.
Ebert, in return, gets out his hammer and goes to work.
It's true that many Americans have an active suspicion and dislike of the "educated." They ask, "what makes you an expert?" when they're really asking, "what gives you the right to disagree with me?" The term "college graduate" has become in some circles a negative. Hostility is especially focused on the "Eastern Elite," to the chagrin of we Midwestern Elitists. To describe someone as a "Harvard student" is to dismiss them as beneath consideration. You can often hear the words "so-called" in front of words like scientist, educator, philosopher. I don't believe this is intended to imply that the person involved is not a scientist, etc., but to suggest that no one calling himself such a thing is to be trusted--because he is no doubt many other undesirable things.
While I am eager, in the words of my alma mater's song "Illinois Loyalty," to back you to stand, against the best in the land, I envy the hell out of anyone who has gotten himself into Harvard, especially with his mind and not his parents' clout. Some people believe it is the best university in America. Why must that be a mark of shame?
. . .
What I believe is that all clear-minded people should remain two things throughout their lifetimes: Curious and teachable. If someone I respect tells me I must take a closer look at the films of Abbas Kiarostami, I will take that seriously. If someone says the kung-fu movies of the 1970s, which I used for our old Dog of the Week segments, deserve serious consideration, I will listen. I will try to do what Pauline Kael said she did: Take everything you are, and all the films you've seen, into the theater. See the film, and decide if anything has changed. The older you are and the more films you've seen, the more you take into the theater. When I had been a film critic for ten minutes, I treated Doris Day as a target for cheap shots. I have learned enough to say today that the woman was rarely gifted.
Those who think "Transformers" is a great or even a good film are, may I tactfully suggest, not sufficiently evolved. Film by film, I hope they climb a personal ladder into the realm of better films, until their standards improve. Those people contain multitudes. They deserve films that refresh the parts others do not reach. They don't need to spend a lifetime with the water only up to their toes.
The whole thing is worth a read.