Roger And Us

ebert_1I was dreading the day Roger Ebert would die.

I selfishly hoped it would never come.

I had known the movie critic and film scholar was nearing death for years, as we all had. When news broke that Roger was stepping back from his reviews for the time being due to his cancer recurring, I was afraid the end might come within days.

I was right. Just a day after he announced he was cutting back on his duties, Roger Ebert passed away.

Turns out I was not the only one devastated to see him go.

The outpouring of thoughtful, genuine, loving tributes has been steady ever since his passing. (The Onion’s tribute may have been my favorite). I knew Roger was well-respected in the movie industry, but I underestimated just how many regular people out there felt such a connection to him.

It makes such sense though. We all love the movies. Perhaps the only thing we love more than movies is talking about our favorite movies. And no one talked or wrote about the movies better than Roger Ebert.

My taste and opinion on movies was shaped by reading Ebert’s reviews when I was younger. His website gloriously backlogs every one of his reviews and I often stayed up late reading them and falling in love with movies I had not seen yet based on his passionate dissections alone. His syndicated review show was something I loved to watch growing up, even before I could fully understand the movies he and Gene Siskel reviewed.

Roger was our companion in the theater, a wise voice in the darkness pointing out the hidden elements the sharpest eye may have missed.

He gave us permission to laugh at ridiculously rude and crude humor. He took the bloat of overly serious Oscar contenders. He shined a light on underseen gems.

Perhaps Roger’s best quality was his honesty. He was never afraid to tear apart a film for being terrible. So many movie reviews seek to find nuggets of goodness in even the worst films, but Roger was unflinching in his criticism of crap movies. He understood how valuable time on this earth is, and how it should never be wasted in a movie that was not worth it.

His honesty extended to the struggles he faced in the last decade. Even after having part of his jaw removed due to cancer and completely losing the ability to speak and to eat, Roger stepped into the public eye and did not flinch away from being photographed in his surgically altered state.

He never stopped working or writing until the day he died. The way Roger bravely battled death and often laughed in the face of it showed us all how to handle the inevitable ending which looms over the story of every life.

Roger Ebert was honest. He was enthusiastic. He was passionate. He rebuked the evil in film and celebrated the good whether it was popular or not.

Movies at their best are a spiritual experience. Roger Ebert was our greatest spiritual film guide, our light in the often confusing darkness of the theater.

Life will go on without Roger Ebert. New movies will come out this Friday, as they always do. The world does not stop turning for the loss of a wise voice. But it can be transformed by the power of one.

What will you remember about Roger Ebert? 

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