I first started reading Roger Ebert’s reviews as a reporter in Chile. I was assigned to write the blurbs for movies on TV and instead of using dry depiction of the plot, I decided to quote him. As I moved through the ranks of film criticism, I kept an eye on his reviews as a reference.
Time passed and Ebert was replaced by Stephanie Zacharek and Peter Travers as my critics of choice. Ebert seemed too “establishment” for my taste. Eventually, I stopped reading him altogether.
Then I joined Twitter.
Ebert’s tweets were not only insightful, but profoundly humane. Cancer allowed his critical eye to wander outside the cinema. His no-nonsense assessments of modern life’s woes (guns, politics, environment) were very much attuned to my own. Ebert wasn’t “establishment” at all. If anything, he was a rebel in a turtleneck.
Eventually, I found my way back to his reviews. He certainly didn’t favour the technical aspect of the filmmaking process, but was willing to listen to his gut. Giving four stars to the forgettable Nicolas Cage flick Knowing was his own version of bravery. Towards the end, the proverbial 10,00o hours that make you the master of your craft kicked in. I may not have been in agreement with Ebert, but it was a pleasure to read him.
Even though he attended the Toronto Film Festival the last three years, I never met him. He was given preferential treatment and didn’t have to wait in line like the rest of us. That couldn’t possibly have been more deserved.
For critics, his death is not unlike the passing of the Pope for Catholics. See you at the movies, Roger. Especially the good ones.