The YouTube video showing the post-Christmas blizzard in New York is charming enough, with its evocative, cleverly edited scenes of cars and pedestrians slip-sliding as a little dog explores a big snow drift.
But when film critic Roger Ebert views "Idiot With a Tripod," he sees Oscar.
“This film deserves to win the Academy Award for best live-action short subject.... Any professional will tell you the talent exhibited here is extraordinary,” the renowned critic wrote on his blog last week.
The 3-minute, 35-second video, by Jamie Stuart, is well worth a look – it’s already logged the more than 375,000 views on YouTube since Dec. 28. We're not sure the piece is Oscar material, but let's give Ebert two big thumbs up for even broaching the idea of YouTube as an outlet for homemade Academy Award-worthy fodder.
Ebert's refreshing take is another sign of how the digital revolution is changing the way we make and view media. It's also a reminder of how technology, in a sense, has allowed the critic to retain his own voice.
The idea of a homemade short rising to Oscar contention status is particularly enticing as we enter the awards season slog – one seemingly endless red carpet parade of Hollywood big-studio promotion, ego and glitz.
The spectacle is a far cry from the alternately down-to-earth and ethereal picture Stuart painted of the snowy streets of Astoria, Queens, on Dec. 26th. Music, but no voices, accompanies the images – offering an unintended poignancy when you consider the short's champion, Ebert.
The critic, who has battled cancer, has been unable to talk since 2006. But he still writes his syndicated column, blogs and tweets. He also "speaks" via a computer-generated voice using recordings of the many words he uttered during his years with the late Gene Siskel on "At the Movies," the show that made both critics pop culture icons.
The program is expected to return this month in a new form – titled “Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies" – with Christy Lemire and Elvis Mitchell as the principal film reviewers.
In the meantime, check out "Idiot With a Tripod" (also known as “Man in a Blizzard”) below:
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.