I know much time has passed since my last post, but after thinking about Roger Ebert‘s passing for the past week, I haven’t been able to find any other means besides a public post to come to terms with this loss.
Using such terminology may seem a bit hyperbolic – even I thought it strange that I had such a response to his death. But the more I thought about why I had this response the more I realized that I had to express the great impact this man has had on so many lives.
I grew up sporadically watching his review program with Gene Siskel. My young mind didn’t fully comprehend what they said, but they talked about something I loved dearly and made it clear that one could have opinions and express them about something so seemingly simple. And of course, ingeniously simple, Caesar-like thumb system made it fun to deliver a verdict.
He also made it safe to do so – he watched and discussed arty films and popular films alike with the same even-keeled, clear, simplified, democratic, but nuanced commentary without a hint of pomposity. He and Gene even appeared on episodes of The Critic, which I religiously watched and loved:
As I got older, I made it regular practice to read his reviews of every single movie that I had watched (current or classic) to help me parse through my own thought processes and reactions. I started to branch out to other critics over time (particularly A.O. Scott from the New York Times) but in essence, his written reviews were my first film school, and he paved the way for me with his genial personality to ultimately pursue a career in film.
I find it absolutely astounding that after all these years, after all of his success, he still projected an air of approachability and warmth. He actively engaged the world online without a sense of pretension–although I admit he always stubbornly stuck to that weird tack about videogames not ever being an artform.
He didn’t speak to the more erudite aspects of critique, but I always loved how he stuck to the story and evaluated movies as they should be evaluated at their core: the quality of the story first and of the storytelling second.
Here are some of my favorite reviews:
http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-2001-a-space-odyssey-1968 & http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/2001-a-space-odyssey-1968
http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-blade-runner-the-final-cut-1982 vs http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/blade-runner-1982-1
Scathing (and very fun to read) reviews:
In response to this last public quote of his: “So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies”, I say thank you, Roger, for inspiring me to become part of this process of telling stories through photography.