Odds are that if you’re reading this post, you’ve already heard about the passing of Roger Ebert. Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a shock, considering the myriad of health troubles he has been having lately and through the years. But it is. You can’t fully prepare for something like this.
Ebert was instrumental in shaping the way I approach movies. Living in Sweden, I never saw his and Siskel’s TV show as I grew up. My only knowledge of Ebert at the time was just of the very shallow “he reviews movies” variety. Once I started getting into movies big time 5 years ago, this would change. I wanted to gain better understanding of films – not just how they work, but how I as a viewer could approach them. I started looking for critics online through who I could learn, and it of course didn’t take long until I found Ebert and his vast collection of reviews and essays.
I did not always agree with him on what movies are good or bad, but this never mattered. What I liked about his writing was how well he could articulate his thoughts and explain why he felt this or that worked, or why this or that didn’t. Later on, I would read his memoirs “Life Itself”, and find out that his wonderful way with words wasn’t exclusive to the world of film.
One of the main things I took from Ebert was his respect for actors. Rarely would you see him slam an actor in one of his reviews. He understood that an actor is but a small part in a big machine, that acting is a two man job shared by the actor and the director, and that so much of how a character comes across on the screen is out of the actor’s hands. Even when he was underwhelmed by a movie, he wouldn’t place the blame on the actors. But he would praise them whenever he felt it was warranted. This might sound dumb, but I always felt a kinship with Ebert because of how he was one of few critics who shared my admiration for Nicolas Cage. Ebert always called Cage one of the greatest actors of his generation, something I will always agree with no matter how much shit the actor tends to receive.
Not only has Ebert been instrumental in shaping me as a movie-watcher, but he is also one of the main reasons why I blog about films. Even that doesn’t fully cover everything. I have been in awe of how the man has just kep persevering and fighting on in spite of his health troubles and losing his voice. He transformed himself, no longer reviewing on TV but writing more than ever, always with a positive outlook. He fully embraced social media and made his voice heard through it. If there was someone in the world I would say was my role model, it was Roger Ebert.
Words fail me now. Even though I never met the man, I know I will miss him regardless. I end this post with two things. The first is a link to a post I wrote over a year ago, where I briefly talked about Ebert and then shared a number of my favorite quotes of his.
The second is my deepest condolences, which go out to the friends and family of Roger Ebert.