December 13, 2004


I was watching Ebert & Roeper this evening, as I do every Sunday. Most of the time, I find myself siding with Richard Roeper, as I think Roger Ebert has begun to let his personal views (politics) creep into his reviews. Tonight, though, he went too far. They were reviewing Beyond the Sea, and Ebert had this to say:

I think Kevin Spacey sings better than Bobby Darin.

Now, it's one thing to say that Spacey "sings like Darin," or that Spacey does a good job with the singing. It's another thing entirely to say that Spacey sings better than Darin. I've seen clips from the film, which include sections from a few of the musical numbers. I will agree that Spacey does a good job with the singing. I'll also add that those who are saying that Spacey sounds "just like" Darin probably don't know much about the music from that period. Yes, all crooners sound alike to a certain degree--often many different artists will do the same song. That's why they call the songs "standards." But it just amazes me that people will confuse Sinatra with Darin with Bennett with Harry Connick, Jr. I imagine it would be like watching a George Lucas film with Mr. Ebert and telling him that it's just like a Ridley Scott film because they both have done films about outer space and aliens. He'd laugh himself silly.

Anyway, play me a recording of the Rat Pack singing a song together, and I can tell you which lines of the song are Sinatra, which are Martin, which are Sammy, etc. Hell, I can even imitate most of them. If you run into me sometime, ask me to do Elvis singing Sinatra and Sinatra doing Elvis. (Speaking of which, Darin did a mean impression of Elvis. Find yourself a copy of "Who Takes Care of the Caretaker's Daughter" on Two of a Kind and you'll see what I mean.)

This idea that Spacey is "better," though. Yes, it's all a matter of taste, I suppose. To me, however, it's like saying that an Elvis impersonator is better than the King himself, or that Diet Dr. Pepper is better than Dr. Pepper. You see, the success of an imitation lies in the extent to which it can remind us of the original. But you must have the original as context. For example, there would be no Elvis impersonators without Elvis, no Diet Coke without Coke. In that case, it's near impossible for an imitation to be "better" than the original. Sorry, Kevin.

I realize that this is my issue, and probably means nothing to most of you. In that case, get your own blog and write about what you want to. I look forward to reading it. And I'm not against the film. Honestly, I'm glad the film's being made, and I'll be sure to see it. If, after seeing it in total, I think differently, you'll see it here. But when I see clips, I don't see Darin; I see Spacey playing Darin. And that's all right. Yeah, the lines are cool, but it's Spacey-cool, not Darin-cool. Spacey's trying too hard--it seems forced. Darin's cool, that laid-back coziness with the world, was so much a part of him, inextricable, seemingly effortless, and very tough to capture. But still, that's okay. Spacey is an actor after all. It's his job to do the best he can to capture the character. And he can sing, no doubt about it. He's even going on tour, a kind of tribute, I guess.

I just don't want people to focus so much on the imitation that they forget about the real thing.


  1. Ebert obviously lost his mind when the left side of his face collapsed a few years ago.

  2. I agree that Harry Connick Jr sounds nothing like Sinatra. Even doing the same song, I can tell them apart. Elvis is King and will always be King. There are two kinds of people in the world; Elvis people and The Beatles people. I'm an Elvis person...thank you, thank you very much.

  3. Anonymous6:53 PM

    Oh my gosh. I had always thought Ebert was a decent movie critic. Now I know that he is actually a blithering idiot. I head that the actual quote was, "Kevin Spacey is a better actor than Bobby Darin was a singer." Since Bobby Darin was an incredibly fiery hot singer of wondrous and resplendent talent, that makes Ebert a total boob. In fact, let me say that I now realize that I am a better movie critic.