Friday, April 5, 2013

Rest in Peace, Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert wasn't just a film critic. He was an institution. He was a teacher. He was open-minded when he viewed movies but he let you know what he thought honestly.

When I took a college course in studying television/film criticism, Ebert's name came up as the most prominent critic in the country. I learned terms like "auteur" and "mise-en-scene" and directors like Francois Truffaut - all things that I'd later see in Ebert's great reviews of film.

He passed away Thursday at 70, a day after announcing he'd take a leave of presence. To me, he defined what being a critic should be. Fair, open-minded, intelligent and able to appeal to a wide audience with clear thoughts. More than anything, he helped teach us how to watch movies and learn from the greats, as well as appreciate certain aspects we may not see.

As a kid, I knew who he was because he and Gene Siskel were always around. I remember the joke as a kid wasn't knowing which was which. Who was the skinny one again? I also remembered this great parody of them on Animaniacs that was still funny when I re-watched it today.

As I got older, his reviews became must-reads. When I watched more classic movies, I went back to his Classic Movies section and read what he thought of them. It made me appreciate friends who were film junkies but at his core, I saw a great writer who wrote down-to-Earth, like he spoke. He didn't mince words but he captured a movie's experience - good or bad.

Siskel and Ebert: Partners in review, now reunited in the next life.
I loved his reviews of films like Boyz N The Hood, Menace II Society and Do The Right Thing. At a time when those films generated controversy, he recognized them as wonderfully made films with great storytelling and technique. He immediately wondered if Heath Ledger was Oscar-bound in his Dark Knight review. And recently, I loved his summer 2012 feature on Quvenzhane Wallis that captured the joy we'd all see Oscar night.

Non-movie wise: His words following Columbine raised a good point about killers' motivations and seemed poignant when he posted them after Newtown. I subscribed to his blog a couple years ago and I fell love with his use of words, personal anecdotes and insight into his thought process.

Most of all, I loved his passion. Passion for movies, detail, love of his wife and challenging his mind. His speech was stopped by illnesses but he became a master of the computer. He was a master of using Twitter early on and he was one of my favorite follows for his intellect, wit and insight.

Now the balcony is closed for good. Rest in eternal peace and may his various sites be a wealth of information for generations to come and us now when we see classic movies.

Enjoy this tribute to him 3 years ago by Will Leitch - still one of the best I've read.

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