Why did I pick this review?
What a magnificent piece of writing this is. When you start reading, it seems as though the conceit—a letter to his grandchildren, who’d just seen “E.T.” for the first time at his side—is a piece of cleverness, a fun way of playing with form and doing something a little different for a change. (Another example of this, also one of my favorite reviews: Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette.”) That would be reason enough to do such a thing. But the form really is necessary, the perfect, even only approach for this piece of writing, which focuses on the points-of-view employed by Spielberg. The childlike quality of Ebert’s writing here, his willingness to even extend that quality retroactively to the people with whom he first saw the film at Cannes, mirrors Spielberg’s approach; his eagerness to enter into the movie through the eyes of Raven and Emil echoes his delight at seeing the world through the eye-holes in E.T.’s ghost costume.
It’s a clever idea, and also the best way to dive into this essential piece of criticism. On top of all of that, it’s also a specific moment in time, as though it’s been pinned in the pages of a scrapbook or captured on a rickety home video camera. What an ache it gives. The debate about whether or not criticism is an art form is an interesting one, but include pieces like this in the discussion, and the debate ends.