Almost 5 years ago now Roger Ebert and his second longtime co-host, Richard Roeper, left the long syndicated At the Movies and the show never really recovered. Since about 2007 I had been following the show online and between weeks I would search for old reviews of movies I was interested in seeing. I loved listening to Ebert and Roeper (and before him, Gene Siskel) pick films apart and explain what entertained or aggravated or touched them about the myriad of films. While before this I loved film, from 2007 when I found the online streaming for the show and 2011 when Disney took the site down, I was taking my first class on film thanks to Roger Ebert. Earlier today the news was announced that after over a decade of fighting various cancers, that Roger Ebert had passed away at the age of 70.
I wrote movie reviews for my school paper in high school and I still remember my proudest moment of that time, my teacher advisor told me I sounded like Roger Ebert in one of my reviews. While I don’t see that in myself often, I know when I read Ebert’s reviews that he is what I strive to be as a critic. Fair but passionate, sarcastic and funny, but most importantly he was opinionated. If he truly hated a movie he would say so. In his review for North the quote is, “I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.” Aside from being one of my favourite passages in the history of film criticism, it shows that even when his anger towards a film was overwhelming, he could make his readers understand that his anger could never be childish. He wrote thoughtfully and always with his readers in mind. He wanted to tell the world about the power of movies.
The most inspiring thing about Roger Ebert though is his passion for the written word. Through the past number of years he was doing his film reviews for the Chicago Sun Times but he also let the world in on his life and thoughts through frequent blog posts. Sometimes talking about film, the most interesting of these posts were those that went into politics or his personal life. He has written about his history of alcoholism and the power of AA meetings, his thoughts about the state of politics during the 2012 election, his feelings about Roman Catholicism, his memories of his co-host and friend Gene Siskel, and the love that he shared with his wife Chaz.
Ebert was one of the brightest minds and authors that America has ever produced. He had a passion for film that was and will remain unmatched. He was a true inspiration for a whole generation of moviegoers.
Rodney Welch said it best, “Here’s something you don’t hear said about many movie critics: people love Roger Ebert. There’s a good reason for this: Ebert doesn’t stand between moviegoers and the audience. Rather, his regular readers are serious movie-lovers who see him as their rep, the guy out there fighting to make movies less stupid, more entertaining, more intelligent, more everything. You don’t have to agree with him…to know that he’s on your side.”
Rest in peace Roger. You will be missed.