Roger Ebert 1942-2013

Roger Ebert, film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, has passed away at the age of 70.

The last I had heard, Roger Ebert was going to take what he called a Leave of Presence to maintain his health, and focus on reviewing select films.

“Roger Ebert wasn’t just a film critic, he was a champion of film, especially good film, and seemed somehow to be on the side of the audience and filmmaker at the same time.”

He published more film reviews last year than ever before, remaining salient and honest throughout. Plans had even previously been announced to revamp his blog and, I suspect, increase the online social interaction that delivered his writing to a growing audience.

These changes were recent, and perhaps pointed to what many saw as the beginning of a man wrapping up his life’s work. I, in my unfortunate brand of denial, thought he was just taking a break.

Things happen fast.

I’m taking time to write this because I have read much of Roger Ebert’s work. In fact, he was the only “reviewer” or “critic” of film that I have ever bothered to read.

I have devoured collections of past reviews such as “The Great Movies (1, 2 & 3)”, “I Hated This Movie“, and- with one of the best titles ever- “Your Movie Sucks“.

The latter work takes its title from the now-famous rebuttal to actor Rob Schnieder’s rancorous open letter (printed in both the Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety, no less) to Patrick Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times.

Goldstien had rightfully panned Schnieder’s Duece Bigalo: European Gigilo, prompting Schnieder to chide:

“Well, Mr. Goldstein, I decided to do some research to find out what awards you have won. I went online and found that you have won nothing. Absolutely nothing. No journalistic awards of any kind … Maybe you didn’t win a Pulitzer Prize because they haven’t invented a category for Best Third-Rate, Unfunny Pompous Reporter Who’s Never Been Acknowledged by His Peers.”

In his own column, Ebert answered Schnieder thusly (emphasis mine):

“Reading this, I was about to observe that Schneider can dish it out but he can’t take it. Then I found he’s not so good at dishing it out, either. I went online and found that Patrick Goldstein has won a National Headliner Award, a Los Angeles Press Club Award, a RockCritics.com award, and the Publicists’ Guild award for lifetime achievement.

Schneider was nominated for a 2000 Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor, but lost to Jar-Jar Binks.

But Schneider is correct, and Patrick Goldstein has not yet won a Pulitzer Prize. Therefore, Goldstein is not qualified to complain that Columbia financed “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo” while passing on the opportunity to participate in “Million Dollar Baby,” “Ray,” “The Aviator,” “Sideways” and “Finding Neverland.” As chance would have it, I have won the Pulitzer Prize, and so I am qualified.
Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks.

That last line. Oh, man.

Roger Ebert wasn’t just a film critic, he was a champion of film, especially good film, and seemed somehow to be on the side of the audience and filmmaker at the same time.

To read his reviews are actually to examine an art form that is new in the human landscape. Motion pictures hold up a mirror to humanity, whether the artists involved in their creation realize that or not.

The language it speaks can be immediately understood by millions regardless of their background, yet often the more clever examples lend themselves to interpretation for decades.

Roger Ebert not only understood this, but his writing encapsulated that understanding with pleasant form and taste within a few paragraphs.

I came home after work yesterday evening, and checked my usual blogs and news sources to see if anything interesting had happened.

I hated seeing this.

What do you think?