Roger Ebert's movie reviews are extremely popular, and there are valid reasons for this. Ebert writes entertainingly, his movie assessments are generally spot-on, and he's able to explain, concretely and descriptively, the strengths and flaws of the movies he reviews. That said, there are all sorts of reasons to want Ebert's Movie Yearbook 1999. For one, it provides the same kind of wonderful reference service his Video Companion volumes did, only more so, including every review penned (or more likely, keyboarded) by Ebert in 1997 and 1998, about 500 in all, instead of the 150 reviews selected for each Video Companion. The good, the bad, and the indifferent, they're all there, with blockbusters and little-known independents, art films and documentaries, foreign films and Hollywood extravaganzas. It doesn't include a review for every film made since cinematography began, but, for each movie selected, there's a full-length review instead of the mini-reviews seen in more inclusive anthologies.
In addition, there's an appendix listing every movie review that ever appeared in an Ebert Video Companion (nearly 2,000 titles in all), with the star rating he assigned at the time, so while you don't get to read the reviews, you do get his valuable conclusions. The Yearbook also includes a summary of the best films of 1997, interviews with a number of movie hot shots (from Jim Carrey and Spike Lee to Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino), essays on David Brinkley, Frank Sinatra, Spielberg at 50, and the Titanic, as well as notes from film festivals in Toronto, Telluride, and Cannes. All this plus a comprehensive, cross-referenced index make the Movie Yearbook a superb cinema resource. Ebert fans already know the pleasures of Ebert's prose, but newcomers to Ebert's style will easily understand why he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his movie critiques. --Stephanie Gold