Friday, April 12, 2013

We Agree: Roger Ebert

I have delayed in writing something about Mr Roger Ebert; it's been too raw.  Seriously, I have not been so affected by the death of a celebrity since the passing of Jim Henson all those years ago.  I don't look up to celebrities, I don't care how good of an actor or writer or director they are; they are people of the limelight and so outside my life, I cannot raise the effort to grieve their passing.  I may be bummed, but never suffer true loss.  Ebert was different.

I am a geek, a nerd, an introvert (a loud one, admittedly) and of the socially confused.  We don't often have Heroes, at least not non-fictional ones.  If we do, they are people who do what we would really want to do if not for our day jobs.  Ebert was that for me.

I never really found my passion, my drive.  I will never ever do "what I love" because I never truly believed you could do what you loved, and get paid for it.  But every so often, I do something and realize that if I had understood the get-started-early philosophy, at an early age, I would probably be living a different life.  I would probably be a graphic designer.  Or a proper movie journalist.  I look back at Ebert's life, being exposed to so so so many good articles over the past week, and see a man who just dove into his chosen path.  I am sure his early stuff was not that good but to have produced THOUSANDS of reviews, just led to an extremely well polished skill.  It shows the proof in perseverance to what you love.

Even beyond writing about movies, he was the first influence on my love of movies.  In the 80s, during my absorption of videos from the local stores, I was pretty non-critical -- I would watch anything.  But as time went by and Arnie movies proved to be terrible, a little bit of a snob grew in me.  I wanted more out of my movie watching.  By the time I was in university, I was reading as much as I could about movies I would never see in the theatre and rarely find in the video store. And when I left university, I got access to rep theatres and decent video stores.  And I had the battery of review books from Ebert, and the show to watch, to become more discerning.

But it was more than his choices of what to watch; it was in the way he said it.  He, as a good writer always should, spoke to me.  Even when I didn't agree with him, I understood and respected his view.  I remember when I began to be tickled about his biases, about his fondness for certain pretty girls and how he would forgive them a crappy movie and write a decent review, despite the one or two stars.  He taught me that snobbishness was not the way, but truly knowing what you liked and what you didn't --- and WHY.  It was about this time that I realized I had a hero, someone I wanted to emulate.  And then he joined the Internet.

This man entered the Internet when the rest of us were inventing blogs and joining fledgling social apps.  He was writing truly journalistic articles on a medium that was assumed to be for amateurs and geeks only.  He joined Twitter and found an extremely prolific voice in 140 characters.  He became my hero again and again.


I have never really tried to invest myself in much (of anything) to any great degree.  I have been a jack-of-many-trades for all my life, losing interest and passion as often as I find something else to spark my interest. But in the past few months, I have been thinking about this blog and what I want to do with it. I want to do more.  I want to learn a craft. I want to read more and learn more and really develop my voice.  But the more how do be a movie reviewer I read the less I enjoy what others tell me I should do.  But Ebert reminded me how you could write an entire review that was so much not about the weak plot of the movie, but about the fleeting elements you so enjoyed about it.  He could do what I would strive to do --- just write about the love of the art form.

I will struggle to live up to his ideal.

It makes me sad that the world does not have his voice, albeit a purely typed one in the latter days.  I absolutely love that what we got from him in his post-cancer days was a man who focused, at least publicly,  on what he knew he could give to the world.  Even if he was hurting from what he had lost, he didn't let on... loudly.  Again, heroic.  Fucking heroic.  But in the end, he was tired and I am glad he was at least able to pass on in an alert mind frame, when he was aware of what he had done, if not being able to accomplish more of what he intended. But damn, I miss him.

Last night, a large crowd gathered in Chicago to talk about Roger Ebert.  Would that I could have been in that audience, to smile and wipe away tears.