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Roeper gives Silverscreen two thumbs up

The award-winning critic judged each featured short.

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Film critic Richard Roeper speaks Saturday night at the Missouri Theatre. Roeper critiqued films submitted to the Silverscreen Film Festival and spoke about his own experiences in the film industry.

Justin Yang/Senior Staff Photographer

April 20, 2010

A staff member brought two plates of sandwiches, fruits and vegetables into a brightly lit dressing room at the Missouri Theatre.

"I feel like Coldplay with all this stuff backstage!" Richard Roeper said in his enunciated, assertive voice.

Coming from one of the top film critics in the country and a three-time Emmy Award winner, Roeper's exclamation is as endearing as it is humorous. His animated personality is no different offstage than on his former TV show, "Ebert and Roeper," and in his Chicago Sun-Times column.

As guest speaker and judge for MU's annual Silverscreen Film Festival, Roeper spoke last Saturday about his career path, pop culture, the film industry and the contestants' films.

"We wanted to bring the festival up to the next level," said Nick Lang, senior speaker chairman of the Department of Student Activities. "And who better than Richard Roeper to judge movies?"

Roeper is quick to admit he has his dream job despite his young aspirations of becoming a baseball player. Roeper often finds himself amid the pop culture he critiques. He has been joked about by Letterman for wearing a toupee (untrue, he said), referenced in Drake lyrics and has played himself on "Entourage," reviewing one of character Vincent Chase's movies.

"They sent me the script, and I read it and I said, 'I'd actually be much meaner to this movie,' and they said, 'Take a stab at it!' " Roeper said. "So I wrote my own part, and they used my script instead of theirs, so that was really fun."

But despite his non-journalistic media involvement, when it comes to reviews, Roeper said he puts his feelings aside and writes for the moviegoer. He maintains that the theater is the best place to see a movie but is aware of the hefty price tag that can entail.

"All of a sudden, it's $50 or $60 a night, and you don't want to waste that on a crappy movie," he said.

He has realized the impact his words can have on movies as well. "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" went from being a small film to box-office hit after Ebert and Roeper gave it "two thumbs up."

"Movies like 'Greenberg’ — those are movies I can really help," Roeper said. "The big ones are going to do what they're going to do."

Roeper is conscious of the impact technology has had on his field of work, so he blogs, posts reviews on various websites and hosts the monthly documentary series, "Starz Inside," in addition to his column.

"I've always liked to do different things, do different jobs," he said.

And like Roeper, the film industry is changing. It has to keep up with the immediate demands of viewers and share itself with every type of medium.

"There will be a time sooner rather than later when you'll be able to get a movie the day it opens on your computer, on your TV, on your iPhone, however you want to see it," Roeper said.

But no matter the technology used, the budget or the names associated, Roeper judges all movies, including the Silverscreen shorts, by the same guidelines.

"I want to see if they have a story to tell and how effective they are at telling it," he said. "That's what I look for first."

The Silverscreen filmmakers had an opportunity to talk to him one-on-one after his presentation.

"Every filmmaker I talked to gave me really positive feedback," said John Shealy, Department of Student Activities Special Events senior chairman. "He knows what's good and what's bad. With his input, it was a very positive learning experience."

Roeper saw value in both the films and the festival itself; he told Shealy that if the films weren't good he would not have come.

"I keep my opinion," Roeper said. "It comes from the heart."

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