Friday, April 5, 2013

R.I.P. Roger Ebert

Ever since yesterday when I learned of Roger Ebert's passing I have been thinking of what I wanted to say about him. I mean there are better written tributes going on all over the place. For better or worse, depending on your point of view, if you are interested in movies at all you have run into Roger Ebert. I think I could say without exaggeration that the two people who most influenced my love of movies were my Dad and Roger Ebert, and it's funny because they two seemed so entwined for so long. I remember Saturday nights, I forget if it was right before or right after The Muppet Show, my Dad would always catch whatever iteration of Siskel and Ebert was on, and he would write down on a yellow legal pad whatever movies they were talking about and he would two columns: one for Siskel and one for Ebert down the middle of the pad. And as they gave the thumbs up or thumbs down, he would write Yes or No. I wonder if he still has those legal pads anywhere? He really kept track of these things back in the day, much to my detriment sometimes so he actually knew about stuff and I would have to sneak things I know hew would disapprove of but that's for another time. I remember though that my Dad always trusted Ebert's opinion more, the well spoken, everyman critic that was the absolute best at conveying his love of film, both high and low. It was funny because I felt like my Dad thought Siskel (r.i.p.) was this uppity Ivy Leaguer and Ebert was waaaay more down to Earth, which was probably true. I know for a fact that in other ways they would have disagreed, especially on politics, but he always trusted him the most, just like a lot of us did.

Almost to a person, particularly people that have become actual, professional movie critics, they always point Roger Ebert's old movie guides as being a singular influence for them and I have to agree. This was a regular gift under the Christmas tree for me as he updated them every year. I mean, not only was Ebert accessible while still being really smart, but it was through his movie guides (which I read and re-read) where he introduced you stuff that you would never come in contact with, particularly at that age, where he would write about like The Floating Weeds or La Dolce Vita, or Aguirre, The Wrath Of God, just stuff that was SO beyond my canon. He opened up all these new worlds that would have never just been available to a kid living in Westerly, RI. His writing was beautiful but accessible, and so was his enthusiasm for film, he was there holding our hands as budding film buffs. Plus I mean you hardly come across someone who was in actuality an actual good person. I highly recommend, obviously, reading any of his stuff, his "Great Movies" or even his awesome autobiography. We'll definitely miss you, Roger.


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