On Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert

A few days ago, the country lost one of its greatest minds in the realms of film and criticism. Though there have already been a superfluous amount of articles memorializing the reviewer from the Chicago Sun-Times, it would be a mistake to not acknowledge a man who has had such a profound impact on film.

It seems that today just about anyone can hop onto a computer and consider themselves a critic (myself included), but serious criticism is harder than ever to come by. I won’t go so far as to say that Ebert was the greatest American film critic, but he was a symbol for a bygone era where films were more intellectual than entertaining and criticism wasn’t skin deep.

Ebert’s appreciation for film influenced my own through his many television shows, columns and a decade’s worth of “Two Thumbs WAY Up!” on VHS and DVD covers. He didn’t just review films for their overall quality but for how well they accomplished what they set out to do, as well as how much he believed the target audience would enjoy it. This relative grading scale made him the subject of a lot of ridicule, but at least there was an understandable method to his madness.

Those of us who obsess over film, both professionally and as amateurs, often don’t have too many close friends who share our passion for the silver screen. Losing Ebert feels like losing a close friend, one who understood something about you that no one else did.

This isn’t to say that Ebert was perfect. I often disagreed with his reviews and the man came across as a bit arrogant on more than one occasion in his writing. But that isn’t the point. Everyone I’ve ever met or heard of had some sort of defect, so there’s no sense in remembering a review here and there that may not be popular.

Ebert was the friend you discussed and debated films with at length, never growing tired of exploring new themes and ideas. Each week he invited us into his little studio and shared his views on the latest offerings from Hollywood. He did it with wit, intelligence and an amiable spirit. In the closing of his final blog post, “A Leave of Presence,” Ebert wrapped up everything I enjoyed about his work:

“So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies.”