Roger Ebert Has Died

A lot can be said, and has been said, and will be said about the importance of Roger Ebert to film criticism. What must be said is how folk like me, and the half a billion other sites on the web that feature film reviews, owe Ebert a debt. Because it was him and Siskel that made film criticism accessible to the general public. Before them, critics were seen as either pretentious blowhards who decried the derogation of high culture, or wafer thin sycophants who act as if everything they watch is the height of human achievement (there is much to be said about this still being the case). Ebert was different. Intelligent, but not arrogant. Eloquent without being alienating. And honest.

Above all else, he was honest. If he didn't like a movie, you knew it. Even when, in his later years, it was levelled against him that he had softened, he was still capable of tearing a strip off something he deemed a waste of film. He was also human, and capable of error, and wasn't above admitting his mistakes, as when he made some uneducated remarks some years back about video games, later admitting that he was out of his realm.But it was through the simplistic "thumbs up/down" system (a system he later admitted tended to stop the conversation rather then expand it), paired with his balanced and educated analysis that inspired generations of film goers to watch films more closely, to study detail and intent, and to define reason from what the film has opted to show. And, he was a big fan of science fiction, so he obviously knew what was good for him.

At the Movies was required weekly viewing for this author, both in the Siskel era and the Roeper era. I continued to read his reviews on his site after the cancer that took his jaw and his voice made it nearly impossible for him to continue in his duties, the same cancer that reemerged and caused his death on Thursday. The last review credited to him on his Chicago Sun Times site was a late March review for The Host, to which he gave two and a half stars. Earlier this week, he announced a "leave of presence," as prophetic a comment as he ever made, but it holds true. He physically may not be present any longer, but his effect, his influence, and his style will last as long as there is film.

The balcony may be closed, but the film is still showing.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.