Roger Ebert, RIP

;lk;kj;kljjjj

Film critic Roger Ebert has died.

As someone who came of age in the 1980s in the Chicago area, I remember him and Gene Siskel being the first regular movie critics I ever watched on television. To be honest I more often disagreed with Ebert than I did his late cohost Siskel, and sometimes I felt Ebert let his politics intrude too deeply into his views of various movies–but at least he was honest and straightforward about this most of the time, which was a plus. In any case his criticisms were generally thoughtful and often funny, and he had a deep impact on me as a young man who wanted to understand and think about movies rather than just watch and enjoy them.

It’s a funny thing when we hit middle age (I’ll be 47 this year) and we start to see icons from our youth pass away; it reminds you of your own mortality and it feels like parts of your past are slipping away, even when it’s people you have never met and never expected to.

I’m not sure we’ll ever see a film critic of the impact of Roger Ebert again, if only because the media landscape has changed so much; when he first hit the airwaves, cable TV was a rarity and most of the time there was only handful of TV stations to choose from. Thus the ability of one person to be known by practically everybody was much greater than today. Although I don’t think of Ebert as a “great” intellectual per se, he was an intellectual, who brought that intellect to the movies and shared it with the audience, so whether you agreed with him or not you almost always knew where he was coming from. Even if you disagreed with him, you wanted to argue with him rather than just say he was wrong. He challenged his readers that way, and I appreciated that about him. Today, everybody’s a critic, and between hundreds of TV channels and millions of YouTube channels, I don’t think you’ll ever see a critic of that kind of stature again. And in any case, he was by all accounts a good man, and he taught me a lot about what I liked and disliked in movies. He will be missed.

Author: DEAN ESMAY, Guest Voice Columnist

Dean Esmay is a long-time associate of Joe Gandelman and The Moderate Voice. He is Managing Editor of A Voice for Men. He also blogs on a variety of issues at Dean's World, one of the world's first blogs and one of the few that was archived as Historically Significant by the Library of Congress for the 2004 elections. You can also follow Dean via Twitter here.

6 Comments

  1. It’s a funny thing when we hit middle age (I’ll be 47 this year) and we start to see icons from our youth pass away; it reminds you of your own mortality and it feels like parts of your past are slipping away, even when it’s people you have never met and never expected to.

    Well said, Dean. Even though I just turned 40 a week ago, I have been feeling this for a few years now. I got interested in and listening to music, eventually trying my hand at different instruments until the drums stuck with me, so when musical icons of the 70s and 80s started dying (or someone like Fred Rogers died back in 2003) of something other than an “accidental drug overdose,” it really struck a nerve with me in feeling a renewed sense of my own mortality.

    As for Mr. Ebert, I even remember trying to watch his and Siskel’s syndicated “At the Movies” whenever it came on wherever I lived just for the back and forth between them. When Siskel died, the show was never the same no matter who Ebert had in the chair across from him.

  2. I like to think Siskel and Ebert can once again team up and are reviewing movies for the angels now. His pain is over.

  3. Mr. Ebert was the one critic I relied on to determine whether I really wanted to spend the $16 it now takes to see a movie in a theater (with goodies). If he didn’t recommend it, a wait for Netflix or video store was in order.

    His and Siskel’s conversations about movies were informative, enlightening and, most of all, fun. Maybe we will be able to enjoy them again in the next life.

  4. I am/was a huge fan of Siskel and Ebert from the late 80s. Watching re-runs of them sparring over movie reviews would be fun. I miss Ebert already, and have missed Siskel for some time. Peace.

  5. “I’m not sure we’ll ever see a film critic of the impact of Roger Ebert again…”

    I’ll go out on a limb here and say I’m sure we won’t.

    Ebert, along with Gene Siskel, made being a film critic a thing. A job. Even a career.

    One of my good friends managed to duplicate what Ebert did to an extent, yet on a much smaller scale. He’d called into a local radio show to complain about a movie, and the next thing you know he was hired (for no money, of course) to be the resident film critic. Fast forward a few years, and he was the president of the local film critics’ society, and movie studios were giving him screening tickets and screening copies of films prior to release for his review.

    He developed a signature rating system – bags of popcorn instead of “stars,” and turned watching movies into a cottage industry.

    Another friend of mine also launched a film criticism career of sorts, and his ratings system was “damned dirty apes” rather than stars. If your movie got three “damned dirty apes,” it was doing pretty good.

    But they were both pale imitations of the real deal.

  6. Very nicely written and very true.

Submit a Comment