R.I.P. Roger Ebert – 1942-2013

Photo Credit: http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/December-2005/Roger-Ebert-A-Life-in-the-Movies/

“No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough.”

I want to say that the first movie review I ever really read was in 2002  for Spider-man, when I was 11. Being a kid, you love everything. There was something different about Spider-man though, just about every critic with their nose pointed in the air was taken by the same wonder as I was.

Except Roger Ebert. He gave it two and a half stars out of four. Who did this guy think he was?

Looking back on it, he was right. The film is corny, clunky, and Peter Parker is sort of an odd character. Ebert ended his review with this: “I have one question about the Peter Parker character: Does the movie go too far with his extreme social paralysis? Peter tells Mary Jane he just wants to be friends. ‘Only a friend?’ she repeats. ‘That’s all I have to give,’ he says. How so? Impotent? Spidey-sense has skewed his sexual instincts? Afraid his hands will get stuck?”

Ebert wrote every review, gushing, trashing, or someplace in the middle with this sort of wry wit. He was funny while telling you what does and does not work about a film.

I remember compulsively checking his site every Friday to see what he liked this week. I remember thinking what a cool job it would be to sit around and write about movies all day.

Today, April 4, 2013, Ebert lost an 11 year battle with cancer. It seems obvious now. Earlier this week it was reported he was taking a “leave of presence” and would review only the films he wanted to review. What a gift, I thought, to not have to muddle through all the crap and only talk about the films worth talking about.

According to his website, the last film he reviewed was The Host, written by Twilight scriber Stephanie Meyer. Just like Spider-man, he awarded it two and a half stars. That sort of leaves me feeling empty.

How great of a tale would it have been had Ebert’s last review been of an Oscar winner that he awarded four stars? But life isn’t a movie.

My grandfather gave me a very special gift two Christmases ago, Life Itself, Ebert’s memoir. In the book he re-accounted his childhood, his career, and his relationships with close friends such as Martin Scorsese and Gene Siskel. Ebert had a way of writing that made you know him. He wrote about what makes a good movie in his mind, something that due to his popularity, many people agreed with.

So I would like to thank Roger Ebert for his impact, not only on my life, but the world of cinema at large. Thank you for showing me the most meaningful parts of this art form we love so much. Thank you for discussing all those films with me over the last decade, even if the conversation was pretty one sided through my screen. Thank you for agreeing with me that the second Spider-man is damn near perfect. Thank you for showing the world that film criticism is very much alive. Thanking you for helping me find some direction in my life, because without you, The Filtered Lens, and many other reviewing websites, probably wouldn’t exist. You are my inspiration and my hero.

As I mentioned before, in his last days Ebert said he would only review the films he wanted to review. We’ll send the good ones your way. Rest in peace.

By Matt Dougherty

 

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