Remembering Roger Ebert (1942-2013)
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Aaron Knier shares his thoughts on the great Roger Ebert...
It’s a strange thing when an honest-to-Hoyle personal hero dies. We’ve known this day was coming for a good while now, and even though most news outlets have their obits prepared well in advance, this one kind of blindsided me. It was just a couple days ago he told us of all his grand plans; ones that seemed attainable, even for someone with his compromised health. I thought, "Awesome, I’m glad he’s still going". However, the going has gone and Roget Ebert’s own body finally finished murdering him today.
Ebert was the first film critic I ever recognized as such a thing and the first one whose opinion I actively sought out. He liked The Crow, which automatically made his opinion more valid to fourteen-year-old me. He adapted to every development in his industry and chemistry, churning out work with remarkable consistency. His name does not trigger any spell-checker in any program. He did not suffer fools. He championed the Jesse and Celine series and condemned the Transformers franchise. He loved Citizen Kane and hated North. He had a dragon in a George Lucas movie named partially after him. He dated Oprah. He wrote literal tomes on film and its appreciation.
For me, and maybe I’m not alone, he came to define criticism: the astute deconstruction of a piece of art for the edification of others; performed with class, knowledge, and an unflinching belief that your own opinion has value. He never forgot that the people who made movies, even those he loathed, were still people and he always gave their next picture a fair shake. Above all, he believed in film - that it possessed the capability to transport us somewhere else, if only for a short time.
When I troll Metacritic for movie reviews, I always look for Ebert, James Berardinelli and Lou Lumineck to tell me what’s what, effectively showing me where my money (or at least time) would be best spent. I’m thinking of auditioning Scott Tobias, Roger Moore and Stephanie Zacharek for the slot. I’ll always associate the phrase “at the movies” with him. I didn’t always agree with him, but I was far more likely to share his opinion than anyone else’s. I hope his wife, Chaz, is holding up. I’ve had a DVD copy of Dark City for a decade and never listened to his commentary track, which was the only reason I bought the disc in the first place...
I know what I’m doing tonight.
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