Today was an incredible sad day for the movies, and for me. Roger Ebert, the man whose name became synonymous with film reviews, passed away at the age of 70. When I heard the news earlier, I actually cried as if a member of my own family had died. The memories of my favorite Sunday tradition, watching “At the Movies” with my mother, came rushing back to me. My mother and I would watch, offering up our own critiques along the way, but, more often than not, nodding along to whatever Ebert said. Reading his reviews at a very early age, as well as his “Answer Man” column, began my love of film, and the art of critiquing it. I hoped to one day become a film critic, and even got to live this dream (well, sort of) when, in college, I became a film critic for the Michigan Daily. I told my family that I would be “the next Roger Ebert” because for me there would never be anyone greater. There are so many more reasons why the passing of Roger Ebert affected me so strongly and my thoughts on this great man can only be organized in a list format, so forgive me.
1.) The man loved movies. I know you might think, well of course he did, the man was a film critic. However, simply being a film critic does not make one a true film lover. Unlike so many other film critics, Ebert loved the movies—a simple, joyful kind of love. It was clear in every review he wrote, even the negative ones. Think about other film critics you read often A.O Scott’s reviews, Owen Gleiberman, etc. Do any of them seem to really LOVE film? After Ebert became ill, even losing his entire jaw in the process of fighting cancer, he continued doing what he loved. Last year, Ebert reviewed 306 films. 306! Often times Ebert would claim that he did so because a film would help him forget about his illness, because that was the power of the movies.
2.) His “bad” reviews. Nobody could destroy a film so elegantly, so hilariously, and so perfectly, the way Ebert could. Ebert’s “bad movie” reviews were so amazing, they were compiled into not one, not two, but three separate books. And, guess who owns all three of those books and has read them far more times than she can count? That’s right, me. Some of them I’ve read so many times I can actually quote them word for word.
3.) His spirit. In the past few years, Ebert suffered setback after setback when it came to his health. Just two days ago, Ebert wrote a blog post announcing that his health required him to take a “leave of presence” from film reviewing. He explained that a “leave of presence” means one thing for certain—that he was not going away. He would continue to write a blog about the movies, to hold a film festival devoted to the year’s most underappreciated films (Ebertfest), and he was even planning to look into bringing back “At the Movies”. When I called my mother to tell her the sad news earlier, she attempted to console me by saying, “Well at least he continued to do what he loved until the very end.” As always, my mother is right (don’t tell her I said that). He never once lost his guiding force, his love for the movies.
I cannot say goodbye in a way that would truly explain how deeply felt his death is to me. So, I will end with a variation on the same line that Ebert himself ended with, in his last blog post to the public: Roger, I’ll see you at the movies.