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April 8, 2013

Beer Diary:

Roger Ebert, Beer Critic?

Our appreciation of beer and movies isn’t all that different.
by Eddie Glick

I like my beer like my women: pale, strong, full-bodied, and extremely bitter.
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I was sad to hear about famed film critic and journalist Roger Ebert’s death last week. While I love a good movie quote, I wouldn’t call myself a movie geek, buff, or even enthusiast, but I always admired Ebert’s down-to-earth reviews and still stand in awe at the prodigiousness of his writing. And I have great nostalgia about watching The Fat Guy And The Skinny One, otherwise known as Siskel And Ebert At The Movies, since as a kid that was as close as I was ever going to get to watching most of those films because I grew up 15 miles from the nearest theatre and my parents were sure there was no bigger waste of time on the planet than watching a two-hour movie.

As I got older and read more of his stuff on RogerEbert.com, I started to feel a vague sort of kinship with him, since, like me, he was a Midwestern guy with a love of pulp fiction, Bill Murray, and boobs, and, like me, he critiqued art for a living. His job was reviewing movies, while mine is reviewing beer. I realize that comparing me to someone as transcendent as Roger Ebert would be along the lines of comparing a pile of rotten dog shit to a diamond ring, but stick with me here before I lose my train of thought and this article devolves into a senseless mess.

It’s pretty easy to see an analogy between big budget crap movies and industrial-produced crap beer.
One of the great things about Ebert is that, while he could appreciate a blockbuster shoot-em-up on the merits of great enterainment, he refused to hold back when a big budget movie insulted his and the audience’s intelligence. And, for me at least, it’s pretty easy to see an analogy between big budget crap movies and industrial-produced crap beer.

Macro-swill apologists delight in pointing out how difficult it is to brew a light lager consistently from batch to batch, far beyond the capabilities of all but the largest of craft breweries. That’s just as true as the fact that making a CGI spectacle like Transformers is far beyond the capabilities of a small studio or indie director.

Does that make either of them works of art that deserve the dollars of movie and beer lovers? Uh, no. In fact, it’s the opposite of art, which in the beer world we call Bud Light. In the movie world, it’s called Michael Bay Splosions! And spending all that time, energy, and money on foolishly consistent crap makes their producers villians of a certain order.

Macro-swill apologists delight in pointing out how difficult it is to brew a light lager consistently from batch to batch.
Likewise, it’s a no-brainer to compare small budget, character- and story-driven movies that were the ardent visions of their writers and directors like Ghost World, Fargo, or Zero Effect to the quiet subtleness of Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold, the raw brashness of Toppling Goliath Golden Nugget, or the genre-flaunting of Furthermore Oscura.

Of course, not all indie or small budget movies are necessarily good, just like not all craft beers are worth ponying up the dough for. But while big studios and big breweries are certainly technically if not always artistically capable of making these less-than-mass appealing products, throwing anything more than a dispassionate, token effort toward them would net little more than a bit of street cred while completely baffling their brand managers, marketing teams, and investors.

Big breweries are certainly technically if not always artistically capable of making these less-than-mass appealing products.
(And then we could get into the similarity to how major production companies churn out smaltzy Oscar-bait late in the year with AB-InBev and MillerCoors pawning off crappy faux craft beers as the real deal, but we won’t at this juncture.)

While I admit there is a certain amount of irony using Roger Ebert to make comparisons to brewing and appreciating beer, since he quit drinking way back in 1979 (after having bent the elbow alongside such luminary writers—and drinkers—as Mike Royko and Studs Terkel), I’ve got one more anecdote explaining why I find his criticism akin to my own. I ran across this short question and answer in the Movie Answer Man column of his web site:
Q. Why do film critics and audiences so often disagree?
A. Because their expectations are different, and audiences set the bar lower. Critics see just about all the movies, and for that reason are less (or more) easily satisfied.
The beer version pretty much writes itself:
Q. Why do beer dorks and shit beer drinkers so often disagree?
A. Because their expectations are different, and shit beer drinkers just want something cold, wet, and alcoholic. Beer dorks try just about every beer they can find, and for that reason are less (or more) easily satisfied.
See you in the pictures, kids.





Comments
two thumbs up
posted by kevin h | April 8, 2013, 9:39 PM
RIP Roger Ebert.
posted by Eric | April 10, 2013, 1:04 PM