What Roger Ebert Said About Black Films

The late film critic made thoughtful -- and sometimes harsh -- comments about some of our cult favorites.

Coming to America (Paramount); Roger Ebert (rogerebert.com); Malcolm X (Warner Bros.)

Roger Ebert on Love Jones (1997):

As the characters move from coffee bars to record stores to restaurants to the Sanctuary, we realize how painfully limited the media vision of urban black life is. Why do the movies give us so many homeboys and gangstas and druggies and so few photographers, poets and teachers? …

Many love stories contrive to get their characters together at the end. This one contrives, not to keep them apart, but to bring them to a bittersweet awareness that is above simple love. Some audience members would probably prefer a romantic embrace in the sunset, as the music swells. But “love jones” is too smart for that.

Roger Ebert on Coming to America (1988), from Siskel & Ebert:

I was also impressed by Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall in terms of what they did on the screen. I thought that both of them showed an enormous range of comic ability. What surprised me, though, Gene, was the screenplay. First of all, this plot is so old-fashioned and so hackneyed and so recycled out of 100 other fairy tales and other movies that I was waiting to see what kind of twist or spin Eddie Murphy was going to put on it, and there wasn’t any.

And the second thing is, the energy level of the movie is so low. This is the first Eddie Murphy movie I’ve ever seen that can accurately be described as lethargic. You talk about how he’s sweet and laid-back. I think he’s way too laid-back. I wanted to see Eddie Murphy take this prince and not play him so straight and so sweet but give him a little bit of an edge … And the whole idea of judging women on the basis just of their physical appearance and their external qualities … [Did I like it?] No … They’re both talented guys. Give them a screenplay.

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