BY THE CINEFILLES
The Cinefilles were, like so many film fans and critics, extremely saddened to hear of legendary movie critic Roger Ebert’s passing Thursday evening. In an attempt to honour a true icon, we offer up a number of personalized tributes to the late, great man and the imprint he left on film criticism.
Whenever I wanted to see a new movie, but wasn’t sure whether or not it would be worth the price of popcorn and admission, I would always look to Roger Ebert. He was an honest and sincere critic, who reviewed every movie honestly, fairly, and without bias. He was a funny man with a lot of class, and he will be missed by all. Two Thumbs WAY Up for Mr. Ebert.
Roger Ebert was the person who defined critic for me as a kid. Some children watch Sesame Street; I watched At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t seen the movies or didn’t understand all of his references — I loved the way he talked about movies. I love how much he invested himself into his work and into creating the landscape of our culture. Even his illness did not deter his spirit. We have lost an important voice that cannot be replaced.
One of my memories of Roger Ebert involves me being a skittish TIFF volunteer in or around 2007 and standing awkwardly in the lobby of the Varsity theatre as film execs, assistants and critics shoved past me in my XXXXXL fluorescent orange t-shirt. Suddenly, there was some sort of buzz in the air and I could see my fellow volunteers craning their necks in the direction of the theatre entrance. I saw Ebert making his way into one of the theaters and I’ve gotta be honest, it gave me a bit of a spook — I knew he’d been sick and that he’d had surgery, but I honestly wasn’t quite prepared for how awful he looked.
I remember shamelessly staring at his face and body and feeling immediately scared, fascinated and excited. I mean, he was amazing in terms of what he did for film, how much he loved it and how much time he spent thinking about it and writing about it —he must be a record holder in terms of films seen by a human being. He may not be MY critic — I’ve always been totally loyal to my grandmother in terms of my allegiance to Pauline Kael — but I still respect his intelligence and I’ll never forget his review of Taxi Driver. I really hope that he’s somewhere watching amazing things.
I thought that his name was Codger Eggbert growing up because that’s what they kept calling him on Animaniacs. It’s weird to think that he was a part of my life from such a young age. Sort of like a really intellectual and judgmental uncle, but the kind you still liked.
Roger was an inspiration and an icon, but he was also a very wise man. He has said many great things, but I truly think he related to us all when he said, ‘I have a voice, and I do not need to scream.’
When I was learning to write reviews, I looked to Roger Ebert’s for reassurance that it was okay to say that I hated a movie that everyone loved and loved a movie that everyone hated, as long as I knew what I was saying. He was an iconic critic and an inspiring person that the film world will forever miss.
I’ve been reading film reviews for as long as I can remember and the first critic that I came to know by name was Roger Ebert. It wasn’t just because he was famous either – there was something undeniably honest about his reviews that I both related to and was insanely inspired by. I could tell this man wasn’t writing about the movies because he wanted to get paid. He was writing about them because truly loved them. And this simple fact was what made me think that, just maybe, this willing slave to the big screen could be a critic too.
Even when Ebert hated on a flick hard (oh, Deuce Bigalow), he did so with a passion most people only reserve for big, life-changing loves. Because he cared about the state and the future of cinema, not just as someone in the industry, but as a fan. Possibly, the biggest fan. I mean, the man wrote about film until – literally – his dying day. And you know that even though he announced his ‘leave of presence,’ he was going to continue writing. He was going to continue writing love letters.
This is my love letter to you, Mr. Ebert. See you at the movies, old pal. And in every single relentlessly impassioned review I write.