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Friday, April 5, 2013

Roger Ebert (1942 - 2013): A Tribute in Memory

There are always people who do a particular thing better than others; there are always those who, further, stand out as the one who arguably does a thing better than any other.  Of course, most important are those who do a thing we love personally, inspiring us to do it better, like no one else can. For me (and countless others), Roger Ebert was just such a man who could do something I love so much, better than anyone I know.

From the time I can remember watching movies, I’ve loved them! What better way is there to escape the repetition of an ordinary day—to be someone else, somewhere else, living a life only movies can give us?  From the time I remember listening to what anyone had to say about a movie, I remember Roger Ebert.  I remember staying up every weekend, late, even when I was tired, just to see Roger (with Gene Siskel) discuss the good and the bad about the latest films in Sneak Previews, and later, At the Movies.  I remember listening to Roger’s intelligent, in-depth thoughts about films, finding more than simple entertainment in them, discovering the complexity of ideas they offered.  How I remember enjoying the polite but honest discussions Roger and Gene would have, always able to agree to disagree or find common ground, then moving right on to the next movie and the next great discussion. Yes, as rivals, they were truly a perfect duo for great movie talk. With every show, I always thought how I’d love to do the same myself–sparring (or agreeing) about the latest films with the man who did it best.

Later, after Gene’s death, it was Ebert and Roeper, and I remember again being excited to see the show continue, even with the absence of Gene Siskel, who no one could ever replace.  Roger, being so good at what he did, could hold the show together on his own, if he had to; but, luckily with Richard Roeper’s personality and presence, again he wasn’t alone.  Roger had found another companion, and I was content to think that the show would last, with Roger at least, as long as I was here to watch it—somehow.

Of course, eventually Ebert and Roper and the show by any name came to an end, and I remember missing it immediately.  I remember weekends that were always missing something; I stayed up late sometimes, as if by habit, to see a show that no longer existed.

Of course, that was not the end of Roger Ebert as a part of my life.  I continued to read his books, to read his reviews online, and, perhaps more importantly, do something he had inspired me to do—write movie reviews.  Yes, in the spirit of Roger Ebert, I began, many years ago, writing my own reviews.  With each one I still write (although I in no way consider myself as good as him), I do try to emulate, with great ambition, at least a little of his style, his thoughtfulness, and his ways of finding the poetic significance in movies often missed by others.  I attempt, only in a shadow of Roger’s success, to make a review a work of art unto itself, making the movie—the subject of the review—almost incidental.  Yes, like no other I know, Roger wrote reviews that were honest and straightforward, unafraid to tell it like it was, making the review a feature to be enjoyed as much as the movie it was about.  I only try to do as Roger Ebert did; in doing so, I am confident that I am at least better at what I do than I would be otherwise, without him as an inspiration.

I sometimes even wonder if I would ever have written a single review myself, if it had not been for Roger’s influence in my own life.  Yes, I sometimes wonder just how much his influence on me may have been.  While I can’t put a measurement on it, I can say, with certainty, that he was inspirational in a way no one else was, setting the high mark higher than anyone else.  Through Roger, I saw movies in a whole new way; and through his perspective, I was changed for the best and forever.  Of that, I am sure.

No, of course, I never knew Roger personally.  I never met him, and he surely never knew me.  However, I’ve known him, it seems, as long as I can remember.  He’s been a great friend to me—a big part of my life as all good friends should be.  I will miss him dearly; but, with his inspiration, he will live on forever as all good friends should. With every review I write, I will always remember Roger.