October 21st, 2008
12:27 PM ET

Was Roger Ebert wrong?

I’m coming to this a bit late, but a CNN.com user pointed me to a controversy involving Roger Ebert and his review of a film called “Tru Loved.”

It seems that Ebert reviewed the film, ticking off its deficiencies one by one, and then - in a twist - revealed that he’d only seen the first eight minutes. Knowing that such a practice was dicey, he ran it by his editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, who in the end acceded to Ebert’s wishes to run the review as is. Ebert then talked about the whole controversy on his blog, and received hundreds of responses, pro and con, for his position.

(One critique in particular was submitted by the person who sent the story to CNN.com, Margaret Nowak, who wrote an e-mail to Jim Romenesko’s journalism site. Read Ebert’s response here.)

It’s an interesting issue. Book editors frequently winnow their slush piles by reading the first chapter of a submission - or even less. Music reviewers might listen to a few seconds of each cut of a new CD before deciding to discard it. And how many times have you popped a DVD into your player, watched 10 minutes and decided you’d wasted enough time?

But those are ways of sorting. Ebert was supposed to be reviewing the film, right? If he was only going to watch the first few minutes, he should have either not reviewed the film at all or led his review with the caveat that he’d watched the first eight minutes and decided the rest wasn’t worth his time.


Or does Ebert have a point? He was honest, though in a tricky way, that he hadn’t watched the whole thing. And, along the same lines, have you ever been asked your opinion of a film/show/CD/book and said, "I hated it so much I could only get through the first part"? Is that not a review?

What do you think?

- Todd Leopold, CNN.com Entertainment Producer

Filed under: movies
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