Roger Ebert could pithily disassemble a bad film, but he could tear apart an asshole, too.
In 2004, just before the ousting of Lord Conrad of Black from the Hollinger Group, the Chicago Sun-Times published a highly amusing and deeply satisfying email exchange between the late film critic and his boss.
Ebert had earlier stated to Sun-Times publisher John Cruickshank that he would, depending on the results of contract negotiations between the paper and the Chicago Newspaper Guild, "... go on strike against my beloved Sun-Times."
"The recent revelations about Hollinger mismanagement have left me feeling betrayed, and I know they did you, too," Ebert wrote.
"There were obviously millions of dollars winging away to the Radler and Black billfolds while we worked in a building where even basic maintenance was ignored."
This prompted a characteristically florid response from Black himself.
"I vividly recall your avaricious negotiating techniques through your lawyer, replete with threats to quit," mewled the honorable Lord, reminding Ebert that he was receiving an annual salary of half a million dollars.
"In the light of these facts, and the many kindnesses David Radler and I showered on you, your proletarian posturing on behalf of those threatening to strike the Sun-Times and your base ingratitude are very tiresome."
Ebert's reply might be considered one of the writer's late masterpieces.
About his own salary, he snapped back "...let me say that when I learned that Barbara received $300,000 a year from the paper for duties described as reading the paper and discussing it with you, I did not feel overpaid."
Through the entire missive, the tone is light, the wit dances, and the effect is deadly, particularly when Ebert contrasts his "proletarian posturing" with Black's "aristocratic, not to say medieval, persuasion."
You can read the whole thing here.