Yes, America's most beloved and respected film critic had himself quite the weekend, posting not one, but two scathing rebukes online. And the first of these was aimed, not at a tasteless film, preening star or haughty director, but at a rather more unusual target -- conservative radio shock jock Rush Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh. 'Avatar.' On the surface they may not seem to have much in common, but now you won't be able to think of one without the other thanks to an unlikely connection: the internet rage of Roger Ebert.
Yes, America's most beloved and respected film critic had himself quite the weekend, posting not one, but two scathing rebukes online. And the first of these was aimed, not at a tasteless film, preening star or haughty director, but at a rather more unusual target -- conservative radio shock jock Rush Limbaugh.
"You should be horse-whipped," Ebert's open letter to Limbaugh began, signaling right away an uncharacteristic blitzkrieg harsher than the critic's starless review of the Jenny McCarthy's 'Dirty Love.' The issue raising Ebert's ire? Limbaugh's typically ludicrous contention that President Obama was planning to skim Haiti relief money for his own campaign coffers.
"Having followed President Obama's suggestion and donated money to the Red Cross for relief in Haiti," Ebert continued in his letter, which was posted on his Chicago Sun-Times webpage, "I was offended to hear you suggest the President might be a thief capable of stealing money intended for the earthquake victims." He then went on to detail Limbaugh's accusations before repudiating both the man and his radio show, calling Limbaugh's calculated actions "cynical and heartless."
This assault comes in the wake on an earlier flap between Limbaugh and Ebert, who earlier this month was forced to apologize after making a number of jokes about Limbaugh's recent heart trouble, which landed the controversial radio personality in the hospital.
But while the open letter to Limbaugh was notable for its unexpected target, the language was tame in comparison to Ebert's next volley, this time launched at Golden Globe voters. Delivered via Ebert's twitter feed, the usually gregarious critic had this to say about 'Avatar''s Best Film victory on Sunday night: "Give me a f--king break."
The tweet raised some eyebrows considering that Ebert himself was a proponent of the film, lauding director James Cameron for silencing the doubters "by simply delivering an extraordinary film," a movie, he added, that reminded him of his first encounter with 'Star Wars' in 1977.
This isn't the first time Ebert has picked a fight, of course. He bucked public opinion, for instance, with his review of mega-smash 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,' which began by stating that the film was "a horrible experience of unbearable length" and went on to suggest that "if you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination."
Ebert most famously got into a war of words with 'The Brown Bunny' director Vincent Gallo, who took umbrage to Ebert's claim that the movie was "the worst film in the history of" the Cannes Film Festival. Gallo, who responded by calling Ebert "a fat pig with the physique of a slave trader," then proceeded to apologize for "putting a curse on Roger Ebert's colon," which the film critic took in stride.
"I am not too worried," Ebert wrote. "I had a colonoscopy once, and they let me watch it on TV. It was more entertaining than 'The Brown Bunny.'" And as far as his weight went, "one day I shall be thin, and he will still be the director of 'The Brown Bunny.'" Despite his sense of humor, the comments about Ebert's health seemed particularly out of line considering he was at the time recovering from surgery for thyroid cancer. Since then, he has been plagued with numerous complications and ailments, including a recurrence of the disease which necessitated removing a portion of his jaw.
All this has pundits wondering if Ebert's health problems may be at the root of his current round of online invective. Unlike his attacks on 'Transformers' and 'The Brown Bunny,' his issue with 'Avatar' seems less to do with the movie itself and more to do with the members of The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, as he prefaced his twitter profanity by rhetorically asking "All hail 'Avatar,' yes, but the year's best picture?"
And on that front, though the language he chose might have been unnecessarily confrontational, we have a feeling that many dubious Golden Globe viewers and film fans probably agree with him.
Now if only we could get Ebert and Limbaugh together to patch up their differences. President Obama, are you listening? Perhaps this is time for another beer summit. You know, once you're done pillaging the Red Cross and everything...