Right now a thousand bloggers and journalists and maybe even some celebrities are pounding away at their keyboards in an effort to post some kind of memorial on Chicago film critic Roger Ebert.
Not that I have a leg to stand on. I never met Mr. Ebert. I only watched his show and read his work. I may not be the best guy to do this, but here goes.
I love movies. I can’t begin to count how many I’ve seen. I’m pretty sure that when I stand at the Pearly Gates I’m going to be asked what I did with my life and I’m going to have a hard time explaining the 10,000 hours spent sitting in front of a movie screen. “I just like popcorn a lot” will be my answer.
Roger Ebert was often my barometer for whatever movies were coming out during any given week. I sometimes liked shows he didn’t, but I rarely hated something he liked. And even if I didn’t plan on seeing a movie he reviewed, I almost always enjoyed the review itself. He offered up information about filmmakers and actors and the process of making movies that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. He was able to do this because he didn’t want to just watch a movie, he wanted to experience it, to know everything about it (unless it sucked, but that’s another matter). And he wanted to share that with his audience. He was honest about his feelings without sinking to today’s level of critics who think getting personal with an actor is good for print.
There are a lot of media persons today, bloggers, tweeters, whateverers, that don’t seem to care about anything other than standing up and saying, “Hey, look at me!” They’ll do whatever it takes to get the attention. but Roger Ebert only wanted to stand up and tell people to look at this movie or that movie. He’s one of the few critics to actively champion a film that, for some reason, just wasn’t making it. He couldn’t stand to see that happen. He had no stake in it, but he couldn’t sit there and watch a good movie go down. He wanted every film to succeed. I always admired his passion.
When Mr. Ebert finally joined the blogging game several years ago, I was skeptical about whether I should really care. I like movies, but did I really need to hear his thoughts on anything else? Turns out the answer was yes. Roger Ebert constructed one of the most thought-provoking blogs I’ve read. He didn’t shy away from critical comments, and freely admitted to occasionally getting something wrong. Sometimes my opinions were the polar opposite of what he was writing about, but I never felt he was writing from a contentious point, but rather an informative point. He may not have changed my mind, but he always made me consider his opinion without ramming it down my throat. More often than not, I was moved by his writing. What else can you ask from a writer?
Mr. Ebert was a fantastic, thoughtful writer and he will be missed. More so by the film industry, who has a pantheon of hack “critics” running amok with positive sound bites for every piece of junk movie out there. The good ones are so few and far between. And now they’re a little farther.
Like I said, I didn’t know Roger Ebert personally, only his public persona. I sometimes disagreed with his views about life, the universe, and everything. He was more of a 42 kind of guy, but always with an open mind. I’m more of a religious kind of guy, but I’m prone to wondering about it all. But right now I’m thinking that by the time I’m standing at the pearly gates and explaining myself, maybe Roger Ebert will be running the place by then and they’ll be viewing Citizen Kane or some movie he hasn’t even seen yet. Maybe he’ll just give a nod and Siskel will open the doors and let me right in. I can hope.