Roger Ebert: An Appreciation

Thumbs down, Death.
Thumbs down, Death.

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.

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.

5 thoughts on “Roger Ebert: An Appreciation”

  1. It’s a big loss, that man loved movies and communicated their importance.

    I didn’t always agree with him, but what fun would that have been anyhow?

    If the link below works, here’s Roger on Blue Velvet, the film that among many other things, led to a type of hipster that drank Pabst Blue Ribbon:

  2. Roger was never wrong. He was no commercial whore, either, despite his success, so no worries identifying with him. I actually hated the “two thumbs up” thing from a very young age, but I see now that that was a master’s hook into the mainstream when it wasn’t terribly popular for academic-looking paunchy and bald guys to be popular on TV.

  3. That’s a great clip. I forgot how good Siskel and Ebert were together. RIP, Roger. We’ll miss your intelligence and conviction.

  4. I loved the good old times of watching Siskel and Ebert with their Thumbs Up/Down choices. Very creative. When Siskel passed away I had a hard time getting used to Roeper with Ebert, but he filled in Siskel’s shoes very nicely.
    I have high praise for Ebert and his courageous battle with cancer that took away most of his lower jaw and voice. I missed his speaking, but his own thoughts and words were always readable.

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