The Man Who Loved Film Dies (1942 – 2013)

April 5th, 2013 by Michael Tabor
Roger Ebert was a powerhouse within the universe of film; he was the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize and was even given his very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  The New York Times called him the critic for the common man because he made film criticism accessible to everyone with his thumbs up – or – down TV approach with Gene Siskel and then later with Richard Roeper.

What I really loved most about Roger was the fact that not only was he a great writer who had a unique style of personalizing every film he reviewed but furthermore he always seemed to bring that special “magic” to the movies – his passion for moving pictures was second to none whether one agreed with him or not. I faithfully purchased his yearbooks (which were basically a collection of his reviews he had written in his syndicated column for that particular year) and because his writing was so good and interesting, I usually read the reference book straight through like a novel. Not only did he review all of the expected mainstream films but he would also dip into some of the off the charts bizarre indies such as ‘Sick: The Life& Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist’ 1997.  Mr. Ebert wrote with his signature personal flair,
“This is one of the most agonizing films I have ever seen. It tells the story of a man who was born with cystic fibrosis, a disease that fills the lungs with thick, sticky mucus, so that breathing is hard and painful, and an early death is the prognosis. He was in pain all his life, and in a gesture of defiance he fought pain with more pain. With Sheree Rose as his partner, he became a performance artist, using his own body as a canvas for museum shows, gallery exhibits, lectures, and performances. He was the literal embodiment of the joke about the man who liked to hit himself with a hammer because it felt so good when he stopped.” Weird, compelling, and impossible to stop reading – that was Roger Ebert.

Ebert lived his life through the movies; he was a cast character in all of the movies he saw. Sadly, as we all know Roger suffered terribly with thyroid , salivary glands and chin cancer; he even lost the ability to speak and even eat and drink (he was fed through a tube, can you imagine ?) However, Roger never lost his passion for the medium he was made for. Anthony Hopkins’s ‘Slipstream’ was considered a complete disaster and panned by everyone except for Roger Ebert; having been ill himself, of course Ebert could identify completely with Anthony Hopkins’s sick character. In fact I personally hated the film the first time I saw it and after reading Ebert’s review and watching ‘Slipstream’ again, I got it – I saw what Ebert saw.

I didn’t like all the movies Roger enjoyed but thanks to his unique writing style I always understood why Roger Ebert loved a movie. I also want to note that not unlike Ebert, I, too think there are very few movies that are absolutely flawless in every regard from beginning to end; however this doesn’t suggest that you shouldn’t see a film if this is in fact the case. There may be something about a particular film which makes it worth seeing, or perhaps that have moments (for me what immediately comes to mind is ‘Full Metal Jacket’ in which the first half was absolutely classic Stanley Kubrick and yet the second half of the movie was almost unwatchable) So here’s a thumbs up to ‘Citizen Kane’ and ‘Casablanca’ – Roger Ebert’s 2 favorite movies of all time. So, WhaDaYaThink ? What Do You Think ?

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One Response to “The Man Who Loved Film Dies (1942 – 2013)”

  1. magdalena Says:

    Perhaps Siskel and Ebert are reunited at the movies.

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