“Hero” is a strong word. Frankly I think it’s a word that gets thrown around far too easily much of the time but sometimes it’s the only word that fits. I’ve been asked before why I criticize things- specifically media but other things as well- and the answer can be traced to a great man the world lost today- a hero of mine, Roger Ebert.
Ebert, along with the late Gene Siskel, was a film critic most known for the review series “At the Movies.” As a kid, when the show was at its apex, I wanted to be on that balcony with them discussing movies. Surely I was not at their masterful level but the way they discussed, analyzed, and studied films was awe inspiring to my young mind. Even though they were just giving their opinions, it was the way those opinions were framed- almost as a spur to future greatness- that I admired. And, Ebert was my favorite. Rarely were his reviews so esoteric as to be off-putting but they were clear and exposed not only the problems/greatness of the film but also why those qualities existed. Whether through the lens of a scholar, a critic or simply a fan of the art of the movie, Ebert was able to deliver either a scathing or glowing review that cut to the root the issue. Siskel was very similar and I admired him of course, but his criticisms came off to me as too erudite where Ebert seemed to be speaking to “the people.”
Siskel and Ebert always stuck with me as an idea. I knew that I was opinionated and obsessed with the media and this seemed to me as the perfect career path. In my junior year of high school, we had a project called the I-Search paper, a research project in which we were to research our future career goals. While I was able to make contact with the local paper’s critic, I did send an email to the Chicago Sun-Times as an inquiry to Mr.Ebert. I received no response, which was not at all surprising. But Ebert was my first thought when I decided on a topic. And, as that is still a goal of mine, this blog is that outlet for me. And in a large part this blog exists because of the duo that I was so inspired by growing up. I would never claim to put myself in the same category of either of them of course but maybe someday.
Ebert was one of the first people I ever followed on twitter, and the critic I tried to read first. He’s the critical writing inspiration I would always turn to when I was stuck (as Gaiman and Adams are for fiction and Eggers and now Jenny Lawson are for essays) and his style is in many ways something I’ve tried to emulate (with varying degrees of success).
It wouldn’t be overstating it to call Roger Ebert a hero of mine. His strength and dignity through his cancer treatments were inspiring and his career, and how well respected he was considering his job is amazing He will be truly missed by so many, and I dedicate this post to his memory. I never knew him personally but I will value his memory always.
June 18, 1942 – April 4, 2013
*Ebert was a t his greatest when he really disliked the film. I recommend checking out some of his books filled with his more scathing reviews.