Friday, April 5, 2013

Roger & Me

The balcony has closed.

Legendary Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert has died. He was 70 years old.

Roger Ebert started as the newspaper's film critic in 1967 and held that position until his death, Thursday April 4, 2013. Forty-six years to the day.

I would imagine most people became aware of Mr. Ebert due to his association with another legendary Chicago film critic, Gene Siskel (who wrote for rival newspaper, the Chicago Tribune) and their movie review TV show "Siskel & Ebert" which debuted in 1975 under title "Coming Soon To A Theatre Near You".

In addition to the TV show Ebert wrote several books and was the first film critic to ever win a Pulitzer Prize.

When I was in my teens and was starting to look at movies in a more serious way, Roger Ebert was someone who guided me on my wonderful cinematic journey. He introduced me to the work of French filmmaker Jean Cocteau, Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki and Powell & Pressburger.

There was a time when I would see any movie Ebert gave a four star review. It didn't matter if I initially had any interest in the movie, merely knowing that Ebert liked it, was good enough reason for me.

Over the years Ebert and I differed in our views. Like a young child who has been nurtured by his parents, I set off on my own. I became more confident in my taste. I had discovered themes which became meaningful to me. I discovered filmmakers who inspired me. And, yes, often it was at odds with Mr. Ebert's taste. But, it was because of him I took my first step. That I can never forget. And to be honest, every now and then, I'd still check what Mr. Ebert had to say about a movie. If it was a movie I enjoyed and I found out Mr. Ebert liked it, it served as a kind of validation. It was a way of saying " see, I have good taste in movies. I know what I'm talking about. Roger Ebert liked it too."

Watching Siskel & Ebert, even now, thanks to youtube, truly inspired me and motivated me. It made me want to write about movies. To discuss them in a different way. Not simply saying "I liked this and didn't like that". You could have a serious, intelligent conversation about movies. Movies are important. They are windows. They allows us to look at society and explore themes. Siskel & Ebert taught all of us that. And they made it seem fun.

Secretly I always hoped what people said about Ebert, they would say about me; there's a guy that loves movies. To be thought of that way, would have been the highest compliment a person could pay me. Sadly, it never was. It was the whole reason I started this blog years ago. So I could write about the movies I wanted to. New and old. And Ebert inspired that.

What will happen to the world of film criticism now? Who knows. There is a great void though. Ebert represented the end of an era. Especially here in Chicago. At one time we had two great critics. Now we have nothing.

At one time there was a man who loved movies. And now he is gone.