Roger Ebert has passed away. This makes me sad. My first memory of Ebert was staying up too late on Sunday nights (I was in elementary school— so 11:30 was unheard of!) to watch Siskel and Ebert and The Movies. Sure, every week I either loved or hated Ebert, depending on what way his opinion was swaying that particular day.
It’s not difficult to give your opinion. We all do it— every day. No, the hard part is backing it up… articulating why you believe what you do. And Roger Ebert was a master at this. He could throw a dagger at an alleged blockbuster movie or raise an independent film to be visible to the masses, all with a twitch of his thumb.
Yes, for Hollywood and movies, Roger Ebert’s opinion mattered.
Because, and I know you’ll feel me here… how many times did you flip through your local newspaper and gaze at advertisements for movies, looking for that famous, “Two Thumbs Up!” proclamation? No other movie critic, try as they may, could equal such a concise recommendation for a movie. Take a look:
But Roger Ebert was so much more than a film critic. At his heart, he was a writer. Not only were his film critiques syndicated in newspapers nationwide, the man was the author of 17 books. 17! But some say that his best work came after 2006, when he lost part of his lower jaw to cancer in 2006. This is when he lost the ability to speak and eat… but gained a sharper writing voice than he had ever had.
My opinions, both film-wise and politics-wise, didn’t always mesh with Roger Ebert. Some of his thoughts were way to the left of mine. And some of the films he advocated were too high-brow for me. But, while reading Chicago Sun-Time’s brilliant obituary today, I ran across this quote at the end of the article:
“‘Kindness’ covers all of my political beliefs,” he wrote, at the end of his memoirs. “No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”
Amen, Roger. If more folks in the world boiled down their “beliefs” to one simple word like kindness, this planet would be a whole lot healthier.
Rest in Peace, Mr. Ebert. The movies won’t be the same without you.
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