When Andrew Sarris passed away last June I was especially touched because I had the privilege of getting to sit in several of his classes at Columbia; talk to him, ask questions and just get a little piece of his life. With Ebert I can’t profess any kind of personal relationship and yet in some ways his loss feels even more pointed because Roger Ebert has been with me, been with ALL of us, for most of our lives.
I’m sure in my younger, snarkier, dumber days I probably mouthed off about how At the Movies had “lowered film discourse and was decidedly middle brow and was reviewing but not critcism.” Thank goodness I was lucky enough to grow up and learn and become not a complete moron. The truth is that At the Movies transformed film criticism in a way that made it part of daily conversation and not something that was enjoyed by a few devoted cinephiles.
What Roger Ebert (along with Gene Siskel) did so magnificently is that he made film art accessible and put criticism in loving, pointedly humanistic terms. As has been elucidated by people much smarter than me, even when he disliked a film his hate come more from disappointment then standing in opposition to the material. Its a really wonderful approach to art and to life.
I can’t imagine the harrowing challenges of living with cancer and Ebert’s other medical problems but it seemed that Ebert approached everything with thoughtfulness and good humor. To see him embracing blogs, twitter and stretch out to write much more than just film criticism is inspirational as well.
Thanks and safe travels Roger Ebert.