RIP Roger Ebert, 1942-2013

roger-ebert-4-600When I was growing up, Siskel & Ebert at the Movies was the go-to source for movie criticism.  Even though ticket prices were less than half what they are today, you still didn’t want to waste your money on a film that you were going to hate, and Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert could help you steer clear of the turkeys with a quick thumbs-up or thumbs-down.  Later, I was drawn to Ebert’s written reviews, syndicated in my local newspapers;  first and foremost, Ebert was a writer, and while his onscreen persona was breezy, film-geeky fun, in print it was apparent he was a master wordsmith who just happened to be working as a critic.  His keen understanding of the film medium and dry, sometimes caustic wit were evident in every review he published, and though I didn’t always agree with him–particularly about Citizen Kane— I always respected his opinions, which helped me learn to be objective when viewing a movie myself.  His written reviews were more in-depth than the run-throughs he and Siskel presented on their television show, and inspired the film geek in me to learn a bit more about the finer points of the art form– how to tell what made a good movie good, and a bad movie bad.  Was it the talent or fault of the directing, the writing, or the performances?  Was the score somehow off?  What about the cinematography– was the way a film looked enough to elevate it?  I never attended a class on film criticism, but through my years of study of Ebert’s columns, I feel that I learned from a master, and know that I am not half the writer that he was.  Though I never met him, it’s fair to say that this blog and a great many others wouldn’t have existed without him.  He was, in short, an inspiration.  Thank you for that inspiration, Mr. Ebert.  Two thumbs up.

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