While some of the movies Ebert pans are truly bad enough to sound fun, many are just bad: not funny, not dramatic, not erotic, not unique, just reprehensible. Ebert often applies two standards to the movies:
1. "Is this movie better than a documentary of the same actors having lunch", which he attributes to his late partner Gene Siskel ("The skinny one" from the long-running Siskel and Ebert movie review TV series).
2. "Is this movie better than the same amount of time spent watching a dark movie screen?"
By and large, these movies fail on both counts, for a variety of reasons. What is distressing is how many well-known and often critically-celebrated names appear throughout: directors Ken Russell and Roman Polanski (although perhaps we shouldn't be shocked giving his long-running personal and legal problems that have become much publicized of late), Bruce Willis ("The Story of Us", "Armageddon"), and Robin Williams ("Patch Adams", "Dead Poets Society). Perhaps more distressing is the appearance of some movies I actually remember enjoying, such as "Jack Frost" and "The Wedding Singer." Unlike the worst movies, which are bad enough to be fun enough to be universally loved, some movies on the cusp of goodness can be rated watchable or awful based on personal taste, so some readers may reasonably disagree with Ebert's negative assessment of some of these movies.
One could do a detailed study of what makes a movie good, although it is safer to ask what makes a movie bad (or worst)--as Charlie Brown says in one of my favorite quotes about asking someone why they like or dislike you, it is safer to ask why someone dislikes you because it is an easier question to answer. As Ebert documents here, badness comes in many forms more easily definable than movie goodness.
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