By AUSTIN CONWAY
Human beings are by nature critical. We analyze, we examine and we judge all that exists within our lives and spectrums. Nothing is beyond man’s criticism, even the things that he loves. It can be argued that the things we love are perhaps the most susceptible to our scrutiny, mainly due to the fact that we hold such beloved concepts above the rest and view them in a different light entirely. When dealing with something beloved, the extent of one’s criticism for the subject is only ever matched by one’s passion.
In this regard, Roger Ebert was a critical man. This much can be garnered from his most controversial and infamous reviews. Under Ebert’s gaze, no blockbuster, regardless of budget or star power, was immune to his critique. Despite all his legendary criticisms, it is Ebert’s passion for classic films and the medium overall that will and should be his legacy.
No name is more synonymous with the occupation of Film Critic than that of Roger Ebert. The Chicago Sun Times journalist started modestly in print but would go on to have his opinion syndicated via broadcast in the late 1980s with rival journalist and eventually close friend, the late Gene Siskel. In the years that would follow, Ebert would continue on his television role with a slew of cohosts cycling through (though a permanent co-host was eventually found in Richard Roeper). But one constant remained: Ebert would always be seated, ready to dispense a “Thumbs-Up” or a “Thumbs-Down.”
Ebert might have sometimes appeared brash, yet his intent was always honest. He wanted movies to be better; he elevated them to a higher standing and in doing so expected much more from the medium. Reviews aside, Ebert dedicated himself to causes and crusades within the film industry, opposing the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and their ratings decisions as well as being a champion of Asian Cinema.
If ever there was a continued mission for Roger Ebert, it was the effort to stress (and elevate) the medium as an art form. In a time where major studios dictated the movies that theatres showcased, Ebert’s influence was instrumental in bringing about an “Independent-Film Renaissance” that stressed the telling of stories that were arguably more human in substance and the bringing about an influx of young talent that only needed to be recognized.
Ebert had been battling cancer since 2002 and finally at the age of 70 he succumbed to his illness. Although in recent years he lost his ability to speak, he never lost his voice, still producing reviews that were often as eloquent as the screenplays for the films themselves. Roger Ebert was able to propel the field of film criticism to new heights. And regardless of how many lay claims to the occupation, Ebert’s words are still the ones that seem to matter the most, both in and out of the industry.
Ebert was one of my idols, a constant figure that always seemed to inform and educate. He was shaped by a medium that he, too, shaped for the better. Ebert has already been immortalized in books, articles and television shows for not only his opinions but also for his dedications and crusades. Despite all this, however, Roger Ebert will be remembered most for his immense passion for the medium of film and his desire to share its wonders with the world.
Mr. Ebert, I’ll see you at the movies.