Roger Ebert mattered
Legendary Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert stepped away from his perch but two days ago. Calling it a "leave of presence," he wrote that he was taking time away from the usual to work on a number of projects, and also noted a recurrence of the cancer that he had already fought off once (which silenced his voice in speech, but certainly not in print). It was as if it was the job that was keeping him here, the work at hand. And so today comes the news: Roger Ebert is dead.
There will be countless appreciations today, plenty of them here at HitFix. And you can bet they will, each of them, be full of unique insights and takeaways from the critic's life and times. He had such an invaluable impact on so many in this world of film commentary and criticism that the words will come like a landslide. And that very fact will reveal so much of his legacy.
For my part, like so many, I discovered Ebert as a youth via his "Siskel & Ebert" television program. It would air very late on Sunday nights and it was the first real moment I can recall listening to someone speak about movies from a unique place of passion. He would break down why a film was great or wasn't. He would get into heated, spirited discussion with his co-host, the late Gene Siskel, when there were disagreements.
On the surface, the bickering was entertainment alone. But underneath it was something meaningful that dug in and stayed with me, and, I'm sure, plenty of you as well. It was something about the power of a movie to get under your skin. As a young boy happening upon a film review show, that was formative. It became part of the fabric of movies, even as I went about seeing them superficially until finally sparking to them as something more a bit later in life.
So it's going to be generational. People my age, that was their experience with Ebert. But while that kind of impact would be more than lasting for just about anyone else, Ebert's legend will live on all the more because he -- not reinvented, but reinvigorated himself in the wake of the cancer scare that took his actual voice away. He found new life online, blogging ferociously, amassing a following via social media that reached a whole new generation, a generation that has surely been touched by the man's passion in new yet similar ways as people of mine were.
A number of my colleagues met Ebert, worked with him, some even appearing on his show after Siskel passed away. My first personal experience with him was kind of an unfortunate one: It was a dispute. I linked to and embedded a YouTube clip of him "talking" (via his computerized voice) with "Up in the Air" director Jason Reitman and he took umbrage with the fact that I did that rather than just link. While my instinct normally would have been to get riled, respect took hold and I simply assumed he wasn't aware it was fair game, noted as much, and said I would remove it. He wrote back immediately after squaring that with his editor, apologizing for his haste. Knowing it clearly bothered him nevertheless, I said I would take it down anyway, and he begged me to leave it. So I did.
We had a few pleasant exchanges about this and that after that. He liked my piece on "A Trip to the Moon" and George Méliès. But I don't want to bog this down with something about me and I'm certainly in no position to say I knew the man. But I will say I wish I did. I knew his passion, though, and that's perhaps all that counts. That's his mark. And while "the balcony" may now be closed forever, the spark Roger brought lit a fire that will never die.
Thumbs up, Roger. You mattered. You matter.
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by. It has deep soul, a wicked sense of humor, and Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
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