Thursday, April 4, 2013

Roger Ebert passes

I am so, so sad to hear of Roger Ebert's passing.  I am not terribly surprised, simply because he had so many health problems, though he faced them a lot better than most of us would have done in his place.  Maybe it is crazy that I am more affected by his death than Gene Siskel's, but I didn't actually watch that many episodes of At the Movies and I certainly didn't read many of Siskel's reviews, whereas I have read hundreds of Ebert's reviews and most of his blog posts over the past couple of years.  So the relationship (as one-sided as it is) just feels deeper.

I really liked his reviews and agreed with him maybe 75% of the time.  I thought he had really good insights into what made certain films work, in contrast to the critic for the Chicago Reader (Rosenbaum?) who insisted on viewing all films through a political lens (his reviews were boring and predictable, though he did have a soft spot for Tati).  I also liked the fact that Ebert was flexible enough that he could watch a movie again and revise his opinion on it, in some cases fairly dramatically.  He didn't worry that this made him look like a "weak" reviewer, whatever that means.  Most of all he clearly loved the movies, at least when they lived up to their potential.

I particularly liked Ebert's recently books: Great Movies vol 1, 2, and 3.  I was already planning on working my way through them, trying to see the films I haven't gotten to yet, and this will definitely spur me on.  Maybe I will start with Ikiru, which I have seen (and loved).  It just so fitting right now, since it is about a man who learns he is dying of cancer and decides he must do something worthy of his remaining time on earth.  It is one of Ebert's favorite films as well, and he often said that it could change your life and make you a better person, which I largely agree with as well.  I think it {Ikiru} is just a bit too sad (and deep) for my kids right now, so I'll just have to find some time to watch it after they are in bed.

I saw Ebert one time at a Borders in downtown Chicago, where he was doing a book signing.  This was after he had started losing weight, but before all the problems with his jaw.  I actually lived in his neighborhood for a year or so (or maybe just a few blocks over) but never saw him around.  My wife says she saw him on the street once.

I am glad that he got around to writing his memoirs and the really personal blog posts, but I wish he could he been with us for several more years.  Of course, I didn't mind the political and religious topics that he covered (since I was generally in agreement with him), though they turned off some long-term readers.  I just thought they made him an even more rounded personality. (This is the same reason why I write posts that aren't strictly reviews, though I wouldn't say I was particularly influenced by Ebert in this instance.)

Anyway, RIP and thanks for all the reviews.

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