Ahead on Differential


Before I get to the meat of this, two things.

I. Roger Ebert passed away five years ago this coming April. He was a titanic figure in the world of film criticism, and like many others, was my gateway into the world of active cinephilia (as opposed to passive cinephilia , which mostly happens when you're a kid and you're more into the familiarity of the images than what they mean or are trying to convey). I have become a fan of many different writers since then, some more rigorous and analytical, some more playful and bizarre. But Ebert's voice, sharp, warm, knowledgeable, still stands out for me. There's a mix of approachability and expertise in his prose that I strive for in my own work. His reviews lean generous, which I appreciate; more people seeing more things more often is something I can get behind. It also partly dismantles the idea of the critic as objective arbiter. What someone thinks of a movie, of any work of art, really, can't inherently be right or wrong. Taste isn't a virtue. How you talk about something is the interesting part.

II. I'm turning 30 in a week and a half. I don't know how to feel about this. Sure, it's just another birthday, an arbitrary milestone on another trip around the Sun. But somehow, I feel like I should have more to show for it. More what? Who knows?! But despite my mixed feeling on closing the book on my third decade of life, I love March. Not because it's my birthday, or because the calendar flips that much closer to spring, but because it means for 31 glorious days, the wider world shares my enthusiasm for brackets. I love brackets. I love them as a conflict resolution device or a means by which to crown something champion. The NCAA Men's College Basketball Tournament (aka March Madness) gets all the glory, but many outlets use it as an excuse to pitch cultural objects against one another. Maybe it's because I'm a sportsman at heart, maybe it's because I read and reread a similar bracketological gauntlet involving progressive rock albums at a formative age, or maybe I just like to flex that dormant comp-lit muscle of mine. In any case, I thought this year I would do a little something in that vein.

So to honour the man who helped set me on the path I'm on today and, you know, get my bracket on in celebration of my 30th birthday, I'm going to be holding a small, 10-team single-elimination tournament where the participants are Roger Ebert's top 10 movies of 1988.

Here are the participants and seeds for the 1988 Ebert Cup.

  1. Mississippi Burning (Alan Parker, USA)
  2. The Accidental Tourist (Lawrence Kasdan, USA)
  3. The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Philip Kaufman, USA)
  4. Shy People (Andrei Konchalovsky, USA)
  5. Salaam Bombay! (Mira Nair, India)
  6. A Fish Called Wanda (Charles Crichton, UK/USA)
  7. Wings of Desire (Wim Wenders, West Germany/France)
  8. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Robert Zemeckis, USA)
  9. Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam (Bob Couterie, USA)
  10. Running on Empty (Sidney Lumet, USA)

To start with, there will be two play-in games (7v10, 8v9) before we get going with the quarterfinals. I'll be watching each movie before their first match, taking a day for each to collect my thoughts. With that in mind, the first write up should be on March 3rd, where I'll be running down the play-by-play of Wings of Desire vs. Running on Empty.

How many of these movies have you seen? Which is your favourite? Who will get to drink from the mighty chalics that is the Ebert Cup? Stay tuned to find out.

#movies #ebertcup1988 #brackets