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Film critic Richard Roeper’s best and worst of the year

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Film critic Richard Roeper’s best and worst of the year (photo courtesy HDNet)

Film critic Richard Roeper’s globally syndicated daily column has been a fixture of the Chicago Sun-Times since 1987. The former co-host of “Ebert & Roeper” can be seen on a month-long movie event beginning February 1 and airing through March 4 on HDNet Movies.

“And The Oscar Goes To…Presented by Richard Roeper” will spotlight 75 Oscar-winning films, uncut and commercial free, and will include Roeper’s introductions, analysis and behind-the-scenes stories about the making of the movies.

I caught up with the critic and author for this interview, conducted just a few minutes after this year’s Oscar nominations were announced last week.  

TME: “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is the heavy favorite for Best Picture. What do you think? 

Roeper: I do think “Three Billboards” is going to win, and it’s also my pick for last year’s best picture. I think it should win. It’s a great film. But there could be an upset. Until they changed the rules four or five years ago, we used to have five nominees in that category. Someone could say “I think ‘Three Billboards’ is going to win, I think I’ll vote for ‘Get Out’ or ‘Ladybird.’” If enough people do that, you suddenly have an upset.

TME: “Darkest Hour” blew me away. Gary Oldman is stunning as Winston Churchill in that movie. 

Roeper: You don’t even recognize him. He disappears into Winston Churchill. I was fortunate to do a screening and Q&A with Gary here in Chicago a few months ago. He told me he spent three and a half hours in the makeup chair every single morning, which gave him a long time to prepare for the character. A lot of actors have portrayed Churchill over the decades and I think Oldman’s is the best of them all. He’s going to win the Best Actor Oscar and that’s really cool. He’s a great actor and a good guy.

TME: From “All The President’s Men” to “The Last Picture Show,” your month-long HDNet Movies event will feature some of the greatest movies ever made. Was it fun to put that together? 

Roeper: It was fun because I get to talk about all of these movies, which will be shown uncut and without commercials. I wrote and recorded intros and analysis for each movie, including anecdotes from some of my interviews with the stars. Then I get out of the way and let the movies speak for themselves. Some people have said to me that I sure know a lot of useless information. I always say “Hey, I’m getting paid for it, man. It isn’t useless to me!”

TME: Was there a movie that you saw during your formative years that hooked you and turned you in the movie lover you are today?

Roeper: Wow, that is a good question. I grew up in the era before all of the home-video and streaming options we have today. For me, it was all about the late-night movies we’d get on TV. I’d see things like “The Maltese Falcon” – the great Humphrey Bogart movie. When I was 12 or 13, I started going to the movies regularly. That’s when all of the classic ‘70s movies were coming out like “The Godfather” and “The Sting,” as well as blockbusters like “Jaws” and “Star Wars.” I remember going to see “Rocky” when I was a freshman in high school and then going back to see it with my friends the next day. Two years later, I did the same with “Animal House.” That’s when I started wondering if there was a way for me to make a living talking and writing about movies.

TME: How many movies do you see, on average, each year?

Roeper: The number is probably closer to 400 than 300. Of those movies, I do about 250 reviews. Every week, in addition to the blockbusters and movies with big-name actors and directors, I see a half-dozen or so smaller films. For those, I’ll get screening links or I’ll watch them in a screening room here in Chicago.

TME: Along with the Academy Awards, we also have the Razzies to look forward to (the Golden Raspberry Awards is a mock-ceremony recognizing the worst movies of the last year). What is the worst movie you had to sit through last year?

Roeper: People always say I have the best job in the world because I get to see every movie but I also have to see every movie - and I can’t walk out. There’s never a shortage of candidates for the worst movie of the year but I think the worst movie from last year might have been “The Mummy.” Russell Crowe and Tom Cruise – two of the most successful actors of their generation – even they looked like they weren’t buying “The Mummy” - and they were in it! It was just so stupid and so off-the-charts weird. It was $200 million down the drain. It looked like junk – it was terrible – and I’m still trying to shake off the memory of sitting through it.

(“And The Oscar Goes To…Presented by Richard Roeper” will air on HDNet Movies, from February 1 to March 4. In Maine, HDNet Movies can be seen on Blue Ridge Cable TV - Ch 655, DirecTV - Ch 566, DISH - Ch 130, Empire Access - Ch 179, FiOS by Verizon - Ch 746, and via streaming on Sling.)

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