I don’t talk or write about film much because I knew I could never write about film as well as Roger Ebert. I’m not talking about his ability to give quick blurbs and four stars. I’m talking about his ability to express, pretty accurately, how I felt about these films. He was a far, far better writer than I will ever be.
There is a saying that people do not grow up and aspire to be critics. That’s not true- it may not have been my first career choice, but if a music magazine or website offered me a place as a critic, I’d jump at it. The appeal of criticism isn’t to tell people what’s good and bad about things, it’s to write about how art makes you feel. If it makes you feel like crap, then you say so. Most critics never write things like that, but when they talk about what makes their heart sing, the poetry they write is exquisite. Kael did it. Sarris did it. Siskel did it. Ebert was the king of them all.*
But as magnificent as all that wonderful criticism could be, it was after the cancer took his voice where he really bloomed. In 2008 he began Roger Ebert’s Journal. Here he wrote essays about movies, but often spoke out about politics, music, life itself. He wrote smart essays, some questionable opinion (yes, Roger, video games can be art). He opened these to comments and his comment section was full of other smart, passionate people who attempted to keep above the usual internet fray. Sometimes they would write passionate essays about movies, music, life of their own. And he read the comments. And he responded to them personally. And occasionally, he would read your blog. The day I read his comment that he had read my blog, I wept. Because most people don’t ever comment on THIS site, let alone comment about it on their site. I threw a thank you note up for the many Ebert fans who did come by and say hi, and read through a post or two on his recommendation. He was a generous supporter of other writers, and wonderfully supportive of film makers and other people who would use his blogs as a starting point for talking about what hurts they had and what joys life was bringing them.
He was thoroughly engaged in life right until the end. He announced on April 3 he was stepping away from watching all those movies. The note from his widow, the formidable Chaz Ebert, that sits atop his blog now breaks my heart. Few people are good in this world. Roger Ebert would be the first to say he was not one of them- the man wrote extensively about his flaws as a human being. But he really was, precisely because he had the self-awareness to admit he was human, and that informed his writing so beautifully. Below Chaz’s note is Roger Ebert’s last post- he was not going down without a fight, and the post outlines his intentions. I hope that some of these projects will continue, but I understand if they do not.
I have written this with a heavy heart and dampened eyes, but I know that I will always have the writings, the memories of At The Movies, the books, and the copy of Casablanca that Roger supplied the commentary for. I missed his voice. I will continue to miss it for the rest of my life.
Thank you, Roger, and Godspeed.
My thoughts always with Chaz Ebert and Roger Ebert’s family. And of course, hugs, love, and peace to all my fellow Roger Ebert fans.
*Understanding please, for Pauline Kael and Lester Bangs are geniuses of the medium of criticism as well.
Since the Ebert blog was moved from the Sun Times website several years ago, the link no longer works.
This comment from Roger Ebert is still one of the greatest things that ever happened. I still fundamentally believe in most of the things I wrote about in my original comment. I need to get back there. Clearly I was in a healthier space before I tried to obtain something I don’t deserve.
Thanks again, Roger. I miss your words.